Ending the Year in Coyocan with Memories of Oaxaca

ASARO Espascio Zapata

Coyocan      Work never ends, but vacations must with the joy of homecoming and the memories, more sweet than bitter, of more casual days and exotic adventures.  The final tally of tolls was paid in a quicker journey from Oaxaca on a Sunday where we were spared traffic jams until navigating our way through Mexico City to the nearby suburb of Coyocan.  The end of the year will be spent returning the rental car near the giant Norte bus terminal and be offset by the pleasant casita where we will spend out last hours of the year before a 3AM run to the airport and home.

Oaxaca had been on our list for some time, so we were excited by the experience in southern Mexico.  People talk about the unique cuisine, and though we liked the street food better in Valle de Bravo, we enjoyed the spicy mole in a variety of cafes and restaurants from the modern and hip to the local and residential.

Monte Alban was a great experience, but we also packed in a number of other things as well.  One highlight was Espacio Zapata.  Having read about the ASARO collective of Oaxacan political artists, we tracked down their display space just outside of the Santo Domingo and not far from the Zocalo.  If we had more space to put it and a way to get it home, the work was surprisingly affordable, and as political art it was right on the money as well.  I thought myself lucky to find an ASARO t-shirt, so I can continue to represent.

We didn’t get to the Contemporary Art Museum, but we did enjoy out time at the Museum of Oaxacan Painters.  The pre-Columbian work at the Museo Rufino Tamayo was excellent as was the museum at the top of Monte Alban.

We only had one bummer, and it shouldn’t have been that way.  Continuing our tradition of always visiting the local botanical garden, we were excited to put this visit first on our list, finding it near the old convent site in the center of Oaxaca.  From what we could see of the actual botanical offering, the garden had a huge amount to offer, but almost everything else about the garden was a nightmare.

botanical garden

Visitors were herded into groups with a mandatory set of guides.  One actually led the tour, and the “trailing” guide’s only duty seemed to be to herd the visitors from either abandoning the forced march or lingering separately to examine the plant life.  Nothing was labeled in any language.  Hats were offered for rent and sale, and seeing small children caught in the process and watching them burn was also disappointing.  Much of the actual tour was not about the plants at all which was also confusing.  All tours were in Spanish, which is understandable, and I’ll be the last person to knock a full employment plan for a public facility, but the organization of the garden seemed almost deliberately militaristic and pro forma, as one group was manhandled in line after another.  We deserted the tour at what might have been the half-way point and had to beg to be allowed to take pictures of the cactus area before leaving.

Such a shame.

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