Sunday, March 22, 2009

Back to Oaxaca December 25, 26, 27

We left Palenque mid-afternoon and drove to Ocosingo, a place none of us had ever heard of. The guide book insisted there was a charming little hotel on the plaza as well as better than average restaurants so we decided to take a chance. What a lovely chance it was! The hotel was charming, the square was packed with nativity scenes and the food was good.

Best of all was a little non-descript church at the far end of the square. There were no paintings or plaques. All the art work was done in stone. The subtle colors of the small stones had an effect different than anything I had ever seen in a Mexican church. It has always been amazing to me that each church I visit in Mexico has a different look, but this one was exceptional.

The virgin's skirt was crocheted using the world's smallest stiches. The poster that I found at the back of the church urges people to anonymously contact the authorities if they have any information regarding the whereabouts of migrants or their remains. What a sad sign of the times.

We left Ocosingo as soon as we could move our car out of the parking garage. Having arrived early the evening before we had been blocked in by a couple of "late-comers/sleepy heads." The drive to Juchitan was long and I was asking for frequent stops. One of them came in front of a working ranch.

If you have been to Juchitan, I wish you would contact me so that we could discuss the ins and outs of this little town. After the subtle colors of Ocosingo and the pastoral peace of the ranch, I felt like I was dropped into Disneyworld when we reached Juchitan. We had just pulled into town when the driver of a car that looked all the world like an unmarked police car motioned for us to pull over. A nice looking young man got out wearing a SWAT T-shirt and asked in pretty fair English if we needed help. We told him we were looking for a specific hotel and he told us to follow him. We assured him we knew where we were going and he assured us we should follow him. We did.
By the time we had washed faces and consumed the requisite beer, it was already getting dark and we headed for the square. What a sight. There were buckets of flowers everywhere, booths selling everything from soup to nuts and that includes margaritas and turtle eggs. Piles of bread, dried fish, vegetables that I knew and some that I didn't, carts of fresh strawberries and open-air restaurants lining both sides of the street. It was late and those vendors had to be dead on their feet, but the atmosphere was one of street fair with smiles and good wishes at every turn. I was assured that this goes on 365 days a year. Amazing! It seemed the whole town was on steroids.

Most amazing were the little bumper cars being driven around the bandstand by children six and under. The best was Mad Maxine. I have no idea what her name really is, but she looked like Mad Maxine and her Driving Machine to us. What a kick!

Finally, we chose a restaurant a little closer to our hotel and away from the center of activity. The venue may have been quieter, but the smiles were still as big as lips can stretch. The food was soooo good and soooo cheap, and when we were ready to leave, each one of us received a little white bird as a souvenier so that we would return soon. I felt as if I had been adopted. The white birds sit on our mantle along with other treasures. Everytime I look at them I think of Juchitan, Mad Maxine and the people who can't stop smiling.

The next day we were on the road early. We wanted to be in Oaxaca early, turn the car back to the rental agency and relax . . . but then there was the cottage style mescal industry and we couldn't pass it by. First, a taste . . .

then a lesson from the mescal maker and his assistant . . .

and finally, a bottle to take with us. We never could bring ourselves to open it. It was left for the maid at the Hotel Trebol in Oaxaca.