Oaxaca was beautiful. We arrived early so there were no tourists. The first hotel we stayed at was less than satisfactory, but when buying a room online, you take that risk. The zocalo was a few blocks from where we were staying and we took to wandering down there every day. That’s the center of town, by the huge cathedral. There were a lot of churches, each one of them beautiful. This one was massive, with courtyards opening onto the zocalo. The zocalo is a square, lined with various shops, and we took to eating our meals there. Musicians of all sorts would gather in the square, some of them pandering to the restaurant patrons while others gathered for practice. There was a park in the center with benches to sit along, and in the center of the park was a tall pavilion where teenagers seemed to gather. Underneath was another store. The food was wonderful, fresh and abundant, although we had a time deciphering the menu. We quickly found that most of the residents did not speak English and I fear I’ve forgotten most of the Spanish I learned.
We had planned to get married there, but could not find a priest who spoke English so we put it off until we returned. We spent our days wandering the churches, the shops and the huge market. We visited the local ruins and were blown away by them. We spent a lot of time in bed, laughing and making love, and when we wandered, we always touched. When our first room reservation came to an end, we moved to a much more satisfactory room right along the zocalo. The bed was better, the location, the service, everything, so we stayed there for the remainder of our time. Brian, being a workaholic, could not resist doing some work, so I wrote and read while he did his work. We had plenty of time, a little too much for him.
Tourists came in on Halloween and stayed the next two days. Altars were set up everywhere, each more elaborate than the last. The zocalo was transformed. Tents were set up for an altar competition. A huge part of the courtyards were given over to sand decorations. Those had started early, so we would check their progress each day. They were huge and elaborate. Too big to really photograph properly, so my photos are of details. I would have needed an aerial photo to capture them properly. They were amazing. There were parades on the 31st and 1st, leading through the zocalo and into the streets. Many were dressed up, and they carried someone atop their shoulders. There was singing and speeches, which I could not understand, but could still appreciate. Everything was so beautiful and everyone was in a festive mood. The smell of flowers hung over everything. Tuberose is one I associate with Mexico, and it’s one of my favorites. Then there were marigolds, marigolds everywhere, and calla lilies. These were the species calla lily and they smelled wonderful.
We visited a couple of the main cemeteries. One had a stucco wall with recesses, each holding a candle and a name. Inside the cemetery, the individual graves were all decorated and personalized for the person who had died. We wandered around the cemetery in the dark looking at the graves. It’s a joyous holiday, but also solemn, because it is still for the dead. Looking at the graves, you are reminded of that. You are reminded that each one of them is for someone who died and is mourned by the living. We went to another cemetery the next day and in the daylight you can really see how much detail was put into the decorating. Some of the individual sand paintings were just as well done as those in the zocalo.
We also visited an incredibly large tree located nearby. The Tule Tree is supposed to be one of the oldest and largest in the world. I can believe it. Unfortunately for me, it is fenced all around it. I understand it’s for the tree’s protection because someone always has to be an ass, but I wanted to feel it, and the fence ruins photos. We visited a nearby village where they make black pottery and saw how it was made. It was a wonderful experience and I was incredibly happy.