Thursday Doors: Las Puertas de Oaxaca, Uno

One year ago this month, my husband and I began a six-week stay in Oaxaca, Mexico. Although I wrote about our trip when I returned (you can read about it here, here, and here), for some reason, I never got around to posting my pictures of the doors we encountered along the way. Recently, as I was going through the zillions of pictures I had in my files, I realized that I needed to remedy that. As you will see, Oaxaca has doors worth sharing, and it will take more than a single Thursday Doors to do that (which is why my title of this post is “uno”).

A door for giants.
Notice the pictures inside the house numbers.
This lovely door is the entrance to a home nestled into the arch of an aqueduct built in the mid-1700s.
Free form metal gate allows the breeze to come in.
Sometimes what surrounds the door is more interesting than the door itself.
Really a window but it goes with the door below.
I would have loved to see inside of this artist’s home.

Thursday Doors is a link-up of fellow door aficionados generously hosted by Norm Frampton. Head over to his blog and click on the rana azul (blue frog) to view all the amazing doors he and others have posted.

GratiTuesday: Our Adventures

On each of the four Tuesdays in December, I am highlighting what I have been most grateful for in 2017.

2017 has been an adventurous year for us and I am grateful for the many opportunities we had to get out and about. Some of the highlights (with links to previous posts) include:

Doing Rockabilly right!

Viva Las Vegas is an annual Rockabilly celebration that we have attended for the last few years. Some people go for the music, Some for the dancing, some for the fashion, and some for the vintage collections, including cars. Most go for a little bit of everything. I am grateful to the young people for keeping this genre alive… and making it their own.

In the spring, we spent five weeks in Oaxaca, Mexico. By staying in a single setting the entire time, we were able to better immerse ourselves in the culture (although, in many ways, we felt that we just scratched the surface). I am grateful for all the friendly, interesting people we met and the incredible sights we visited, and we look forward to returning to this remarkable city.

Quite different from the slow travel we experienced in Oaxaca, our travels to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska were jam-packed with activity. We enjoyed scheduled events, explored national parks, visited friends and family, and experienced the grandeur of glaciers. I am grateful for the freedom that retirement has given us so we can expand our time away to fit in everything we want to see and do.

And now we have just returned from our latest adventure in Northern California. We had a wonderful time exploring San Francisco, visiting family, hiking, and sampling delicious wines and champagnes in Napa Valley. I am grateful for the hospitality we enjoyed and grateful for our dear friends who took such good care of our home while we were gone.

It will be hard to top the adventures we had in 2017, but I am grateful for the opportunity to try.

Thursday Doors: Spirited Openings

Although I enjoy a stroll through an old cemetery just about any time (OK, maybe not at midnight on a moonless night), during the celebrations of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, cemeteries take on a special significance.

Because this particular Thursday Doors link-up occurs right before these celebrations, it seems like a frighteningly good time to share some photos of doors (and other… um… entrances) I discovered while visiting the San Miguel Cemetery in Oaxaca, Mexico this past spring (my Grave Discoveries post has more pictures and information about this amazing cemetery).

Thursdays Doors is a weekly cauldron of doors hosted by Norm Frampton. Spirit away to Norm’s blog where you’ll find a spooktacular selection of doors by clicking the blue (toe of) frog link at the end of his post.

GratiTuesday: Making Connections

A couple of years ago, when my husband and I had a vague idea of traveling to Oaxaca one day, we happened to meet a charming couple at a charity luncheon who told us about…

… a friend of theirs who was an expat living in Oaxaca.  They offered to ask him if he’d be willing to be a contact for us and answer any questions we might have. Their friend, David, very generously said “yes,” and he and I emailed back and forth over the next year. He was a great resource and always promptly and patiently answered our many questions. He also got us connected to…

 

Oaxaca Lending Library… Bienvenidos!

…The Oaxaca Lending Library (OLL), which is the social hub for the expat community in Oaxaca. In addition to an extensive collection of books, they offer resources, programs, events, lectures, and other valuable services. English-speaking travelers visiting Oaxaca for any length of time should make OLL one of their first stops. My husband and I enjoyed meeting several members of this welcoming, interesting, and vibrant community, including…

Marga: 91 years old and full of energy

… Marga, a 91-year-old expat who is full of energy and enthusiasm. She has traveled around the world, but loves coming back to her home in Oaxaca.

When we asked David for a recommendation of a guide/driver to hire, he told us about…

The dashing duo… Jose and Robert

… Robert and Jose, who drove us to beautiful villages and spectacular archeological sites and made our experience very personal and special. Not only did we visit some fascinating locations but, after we were finished touring, they invited us into their home.

A big part of the joy of travel is the people we meet along the way. We have been fortunate to add many new friends to our contact lists, and we’ve received – and extended – plenty of, “if you’re ever in…” invitations over the years.

I am so grateful for the connections we make and the friendships we develop as we travel about. I am also very much looking forward to connecting with friends we have yet to meet.

Grave Discoveries

I’m not sure why I find old cemeteries so intriguing. I do know that I share this interest with many others, including more than a few bloggers. When I did a Google search on this particular fascination, I discovered that there is actually a name for those of us who consider a visit to an old – and the older the better – graveyard an essential stop on any trip: Tombstone Tourists (also, “cemetery enthusiasts,” “grave hunters,” “gravers,” or “taphophiles”).

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to visit many memorable cemeteries.  Some, like the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, are known for their famous inhabitants. Most, though, are populated by those known and loved only by a relatively small circle of family and friends. And, since the graveyards I love to visit are so old, probably that small circle of people is mostly gone too.

After visiting the Colon Cemetery in Havana, Cuba a couple of years ago, I thought it would be hard to match it for size, history, and architecture. So, you can imagine my excitement (OK, maybe if you don’t share this particular passion, it may be hard to imagine my excitement) when I discovered a city cemetery while looking at a map of Oaxaca. Even better, by the looks of the area indicated on the map with little crosses, it was a big one. Yippee!

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Oaxaca’s San Miguel Cemetery was established in 1829 because of the city’s urgent need to bury large numbers of citizens killed by a smallpox epidemic. In 1833, it again was used to bury victims of cholera. Construction of a chapel in the middle of the cemetery was started in 1839, but was suspended due to, according to a plaque, “constant rebellions that were held in that time in the city.” Suspended, and never finished (an old crumbling building… yippee, again!).

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The cemetery is surrounded by tall stone walls and an interior walkway that features 100 arches and over 2000 burial niches. The gravesites, tombstones, and alters tell a rich history of religious traditions, cultural heritage, and even geology, as many of the graves show the effects of the multiple earthquakes that have occurred over the years.

During the Oaxaca’s Day of the Dead celebrations, October 31st – November 2nd, San Miguel Cemetery is blanketed with flowers, candles and alters decorate the graves, and each of the burial niches are illuminated. It is supposed to be a spectacular sight; one that I hope we will experience for ourselves in the next few years.

Hearts and Crafts of Oaxaca

Oaxaca is known for the variety and beauty of its handicrafts. Exquisite pottery, woodcarving, weaving, basketry, embroidery, and many other crafts attract collectors from all over the world. Many of the small towns and villages surrounding Oaxaca City specialize in one particular type of craft. The skills have been passed down through the generations and often the whole family takes part in the various stages of producing the art, each adding their unique creative touch.

My husband and I visited several of the artists’ villages and, in some cases, even their private homes. We found that by hiring a private driver to take us around, we were able to tailor our experience to our interests and benefit from the guide’s personal knowledge. The “one-size-fits-all” packaged tours only visit the more touristy shops (never the private homes), often spend just a short time at each stop, and (we were told) steer purchases to locations that offered the tour operators a commission.

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In addition to viewing the displays of finished products ready for sale, several of the studios we visited demonstrated how the items were made, including how dyes were created from natural sources. When we visited a shop in the village of Teotitlan del Valle, famous for their hand-woven rugs and tapestries, we were shown how a tiny insect gathered from the prickly pear cactus created the intense reds used to dye wool for weaving. Other dye sources include the indigo plant, wild marigold, pecan leaves and shells, pomegranates, and tree moss.

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Another fascinating visit was to the village of San Martín Tilcajete, which is famous for the fantastical carved wooden animals called alebrijes (al-ah-bree-hays) created there. San Martin’s – and Oaxaca’s – most famous alebrijes artists are the husband and wife team, Jacobo and Maria Angeles. Not only do they produce bright and exquisitely detailed artwork themselves, they have converted their studio into a model of community development. They employ many talented artists from their village and offer tours and demonstrations. Although the alebrijes made by Jacobo and Marie were out of our price range, they also featured beautiful – and much more affordable – carvings made by their apprentices.

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Making our tours to the outside villages even more special was having the opportunity to visit the private homes of a few of the artists. We met Conception Aguilar, whose family helps her create beautifully crafted and whimsically painted clay sculptures in their small home, and Jose Garcia Antonio, also known as “The Blind Potter,” whose large and wonderfully messy compound is a jumble of his primitive – but exquisite – ceramic art.

My husband and I aren’t big souvenir purchasers, but we did come home with a few items we fell in love with. Not only are they mementos of our travels, but we feel that buying pieces directly from those who make them is the best way to support the artisans and their families, and helps them to keep their heritage alive.

GratiTuesday: A Cuppa Gratitude

When I first saw this café along one of the pretty pedestrian walkways in Oaxaca, I, of course, had to stop for a cup of coffee and to take a few pictures.

Gratitud

Comida que hace bien

(Food that is made well)

Therapia y Cocina, con Alma y Corazon

(Therapy and Cooking, with Heart and Soul)

 

Not only was I grateful for the smile this café served me along with my coffee, I was doubly grateful that it included a side helping of a GratiTuesday post.

El secreto en Gratitud es hacer las cosas con amor

(The secret to gratitude is to do things with love)

 

Yes.

By the way, did you notice the menu board out front in the first picture? Least you think they were charging $20 US dollars for a Café Americano or a Café Expreso, or $30 US dollars for a Cappuccino, the current peso to US dollar conversion rate is about 18.9 to one. The price of those coffees is around $1.06 and $1.59… that is something to be grateful for!