OAXACA!!! Gesundheit…

Funny verses written by kids about día de muertos

Yes, it’s the city with the funny name that sounds like a sneeze once you know how to pronounce it (say: wah-HA-ka). We’ve been here for four days now and are loving every minute. The food is excellent, our bed & breakfast is wonderful, there are nice museums and a great botanical garden and because día de muertos (day of the dead) is coming up, many parts of the city are beautifully decorated already, like our posada:

At our posada Casa de los milagros

Michael Jackson is in town!

At the local library we also saw those funny little verses shown in the header image. They were all written by kids during a Día de muertos activity so of course they are all about death: “The skull was waiting for Señor Toñito to let him know his time was up.” “The teacher Lem(?) was making a skull when death came by and said: What’s happening güera? (güera = slang for ‘white girl’)” and my favourite “Death was sitting on a barrel waiting to take the Kindergarten.” Obviously, if kids would write this anywhere outside of Mexico, parents, psychiatrists and possibly police would be called and suspensions would be handed out left and right. Here, it’s a fun afternoon spent at the library. I love it!

Yesterday we took a cooking class with the sister of our host. (They are 6 siblings and 4 of them run B&Bs here in Oaxaca – one includes a thermal bath/spa and the other one a cooking school and restaurant. Very enterprising family…) Anyway, we went to Casa de los sabores to meet with our chef Pilar. She took us to the local market to buy ingredients and give us a little tour and then back home to cook: Quesadilla con huitlacoche (a fungus that grows on corn, tastes better than it sounds), Sopa de flor de calabaza, Mole amarillo con espinazo (pigs spine, also much tastier than you might imagine) and Arroz con leche. We also made guacamole and two types of salsa to accompany the food.

In the kitchen

The food was delicious, especially the guacamole and salsas. We were so wrapped up in our cooking and eating that we forgot to take pictures of our masterpieces unfortunately. Interestingly the food didn’t taste like any Mexican food you get in Europe or the States. But I guess that’s true of many cuisines.

Another afternoon we took a tour of the Ethnobotanical Garden. Because it is not quite finished yet, you have to take a guided tour to see it. This makes it all the more interesting though since our guide told us not only about the different plants growing in the garden but also about the history of the site and Oaxaca in general. The garden collects rain water and is self sufficient for the long dry season. Even more interesting is the water is circulated over old canals that add atmosphere to the garden but more importantly keep the water fresh and fungus free during the long storage period. The site of the garden was formerly a monastery but was abandoned and taken over by the Mexican army for many years. As you might imagine, much was destroyed when the army lived there and the gardens were mainly cemented over to make way for basketball courts and swimming pools.

When the army left, the entire plot, including the ex-monastery, was supposed to be sold to a leisure center developmer to build a mall, 5-star hotel and parking lots. Luckily, a famous Mexican artist, Francisco Toledo decided that this was not going to do his hometown any good and petitioned to develop the monastery and surrounding area as a cultural center instead. Out of this grew the ethnobotanical garden as well as the Centro Cultural which houses an extensive exhibition of Oaxaca’s history.

Botanical garden and ex-convento Santo Domingo

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