Two trips to the Spanish-speaking world in one year! When Christine suggested it a couple months ago as our post-Christmas vacation, she said she could always use the language practice, and I agreed on the account that I could always eat more cheap tacos (I’m not kidding, that probably was my first thought).
After spending a lovely Christmas with my family in Brodhead (during which my uncle got engaged) and then later in the day, with Christine and her extended family (during which my cousin got engaged, or at least I received an SMS with that information), we were ready to take our red-eye bus ride from Madison to O’Hare for our 7:15am flight.
We flew to Mexico City for a brief layover in the airport, the highlights of which were, for me, eating a “tres tacos platter” from an airport restaurant (I thought $10 was a pretty good price) but which Christine told me (after taking a single careful bite) that they were actually horrible and they just used a lot of hot sauce to cover up the taste. I guess that explains why they were called “Porky tacos” on the restaurant’s sign (not kidding) but at least the airport’s rat problem mysteriously stopped. Christine and I then briefly napped on the extremely worn and comfortable couches in the airport’s “eagle museum,” which had hundreds of large portraits and photos of the nation’s “royal eagle” that adorns the Mexican flag.
The 40 minute flight to Oaxaca (pronounced Wa-hahk-ah, resulting in my usual attempts at alliteration in the title) was over in a flash. In a sad memory to how things used to be in the United States, when we stepped out of the plane onto the tiny airport’s tarmac, families were right there at the fence to greet their loved ones. Ah, for the old days.
Our first homestay for the next three nights, Casa Giron, was only 15km away from the airport but due to 4pm traffic, took us an hour to reach. As is to be expected in these old cities, the roads were cobblestone and extremely narrow, leading to traffic jams every few feet. At least Oaxaca didn’t have the horrific haze of smog visible from the air that Mexico City had wreathed about it; we were happy we didn’t have to leave the airport back there!
After checking into the homestay and meeting our hostess, Concepcion and her son Juan Carlos, we got dinner at a little tacqueria named La Lolita. Afterward, we visited the main Cathedral at the Zolaco (the center of town) and watched the post-Christmas, pre-New Years festivities – Peruvian flute bands (Christine says that she’s never been to a place in Central America that didn’t have them tootling away madly wherever people that could tip them are found), children playing with massive cylindrical balloons, and more somberly, a tent-city in the middle of the square with hundreds of tents, with signs and pictures up regarding the 43 young students slain in last month’s cartel-related tragedy. They were literally butchered, put in garbage bags, and set on fire. The president and local politicians are being decried as corrupt, and Christine was a little nervous to be walking through the tent city. “I wonder why they haven’t been tear gassed in the middle of the night and had their tents bulldozed,” she mused.
We walked back to the homestay, and got a couple beers at an eccentric bar that looked hip (although Christine and I have never been good judges on what is “hip” in any country, really). Inside, there were hundreds of hand-drawn pictures all over the walls; from what Christine could tell they had all been done by the same woman who was thanking/blessing every saint there was for things that had gone well for her in her day to day life.
Today so far, we’ve had a tasty (included) breakfast cooked for us by Concepcion; omlettes spiced with verde tomato salsa with frijoles and coffee. Then it’s off to wander the town!