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Archive for the ‘Markets’ Category

Currently, View from Casita Colibrí is being brought to you from el norte.  Alas, tax season has come around again and mine need to be prepared.  Then there is never-ending house maintenance and repair.  I admit, it’s not all work and no play; being here means I get to spend time with family and friends, eat sushi, and give my regards to the Pacific Ocean. 

However, despite the ease of grocery shopping when one has use of a car, pricey supermarket herbs packaged in puny plastic boxes don’t feed my soul and delight my senses the way the stalls overflowing with fresh and dried herbs at Mercado Benito Juárez in Oaxaca do.

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Speaking of  the former governor of Oaxaca, Mexico’s much beloved five-term and only indigenous (Zapotec) president, Benito Juárez, his birthday is coming up on March 21.  He is the only individual in Mexico to have his birthday designated as a national holiday (celebrated this year on Monday, March 20). 

We would all do well to remember AND practice his famous words:  Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.  (Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.)

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I returned to Oaxaca late Sunday night, a little dazed and confused.  Of course, getting the dreaded “red light” at customs didn’t help.  All was fine, though the word “bagels” didn’t register until someone behind me offered the word “pan” (bread), I nodded my assent, and the customs officer smiled and nodded hers.  Whew!

First on Monday morning’s “to do” list was a trip to my local market, Mercado Sánchez Pascuas.  It felt SO good to be walking again, even up hill!  Reaching my destination, completely unbidden, an “expletive deleted” popped out.  How could I have forgotten?  The mercado was in the midst of a month and a half renovation!

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This is a three million peso project that includes replacement of the roof, waterproofing of the slab area, and structural maintenance.  Most of the approximately 100 stalls have been relocated to the patio in front of the Tinoco y Palacios entrance and the parking lot at the Porfirio Díaz entrance.  The latter, I was pleased to see, found room for the annual display of poinsettia.  I will return!

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But first and foremost, food!  I found (or they found me) my favorite vendors.  They may not know my name, but they recognized and called to their gringa customer, who they haven’t seen for almost a month.  Quesillo (Oaxaca string cheese), verduras (vegetables), fruta (fruit), tamales (mole, verde, amarillo, and rajas), and salsas (green and chipotle) were purchased.

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My two shopping bags filled, I headed back down the hill to home, sweet, Oaxaca home.  It’s great to be back!  The icing on the cake, especially coming on top of the sticker shock of el norte, was the above, plus 8 bottles of beer, came to a grand total of 335 pesos — that’s $16.42 (US dollars), at today’s exchange rate.

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Sunday is market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros and I was so ready to escape the city.  No bloqueos blocked our way and Sunday traffic was even lighter than usual, thus the drive was uneventful.  In addition, though rumors of gasoline shortages have been rampant, we had no trouble filling up at one of the numerous Pemex stations along our eastbound route.  Once we arrived, we found the market was a beehive of activity, aisles had us crowded shoulder to shoulder with shoppers from Tlacolula and the surrounding villages.

The color… the energy… the bounty… the people… the smells… the street food…the life.  It was all just what the doctor ordered!  And, when I got home and turned on my computer, a documentary on market day in Tlacolula popped up on my Facebook news feed.  (h/t Zeferino Mendoza)

It may be from 2012, but not much has changed.  This Sunday open air market (tianguis) is one of the oldest continuously operating in Mesoamerica.

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A pause in the Cuba coverage to echo Dorothy, “There’s no place like home” — especially if that home is Oaxaca.  I needed (yes, needed!) chocolate and coffee and, thus, headed toward the Benito Juárez and 20 de noviembre mercados.  As always, even just a grocery shopping trip is a feast for the senses.

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First, a calenda on Calle Independencia of students, academics, and workers to launch the registration of candidates for rector of Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UAJBO).

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A peek into el pasillo de las carnes asadas (ahhh, the smells) in 20 de noviembre mercado, while waiting for my chocolate guy to finish with other customers.

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A look at the finished murals (and merchandise) in a newly opened shop at Calle Macedonia Alcalá 100.

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Stopping to gaze up at the “Aves Sin Paraíso” exhibition above the Alcalá.

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Almost back to Casita Colibrí, a new stencil at the corner of Morelos and Tinoco y Palacios.

By the way, I got the chocolate, but couldn’t find my coffee guy in the maze of temporary stalls set up on the streets surrounding the Benito Juárez mercado (it’s undergoing a much-needed renovation).  There’s always mañana — I’m not completely out, yet.

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A few weeks ago, blogger buddy Chris and I returned to Tlacolula de Matamoros for the 5th annual Festival de la Nieve, Mezcal, Gastronomía.  Besides yummy food, ice creams, and drink there were vendors of textiles, baskets, and barro.

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These are the women of San Marcos Tlapazola and their elegant and functional pottery.  I already have several oft used pieces, including a comal.  However, the girl in the red dress and blue apron above, talked me into a little salsa dish.  How could I resist?

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You can always find these women of red clay selling their wares on Sunday market day in Tlacolula and, if you are in the market for a comal, they stroll the aisles of the Mercado Benito Juárez in Oaxaca city almost everyday.  That’s where I got mine!

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And, if you want to see these gals in action, check out the video Mujeresdelbarrorojo.

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My BFF (since age twelve) has briefly escaped Alaska’s winter to spend two weeks with me in Oaxaca.  A couple of things happen when I have out-of-town guests.  The first is that blog posts are few and far between.  The second is the reason why.  It’s because I’m too busy going places and doing things that I’ve always wanted to do!  Thus, a couple of days ago we walked down to the zócalo to meet Agustín of Cooking Classes Oaxaca.

After all six budding Oaxaca street food cooking students had gathered, we proceeded to mercados Benito Juárez and 20 de noviembre to begin our lessons in products and cleanliness.  We then hailed a couple of taxis to take us up to Colonia Reforma to our classroom for the day, where we gingerly wound our way up the narrowest and steepest spiral staircase I have ever encountered.

Once at the top, we were introduced to our teacher Esperanza (“Hope” in English), shown where the beer was stocked, and oriented to the many types of chiles we would be using. Then commenced the hands-on work, beginning with making two salsas (verde and rojo), guacamole, and chicken tinga.

Next up was making tortillas.  We mixed the masa placed a “3-finger” size ball onto the tortilla press, pressed, turned, pressed, turned, pressed, turned and removed our thin and perfectly shaped tortilla.  Piece of cake!  However, the most difficult task of the day was yet to come.  Believe it or not, laying the tortilla on a very hot comal proved to be incredibly challenging for most (not all) of us.  Holes and wrinkles happened more often than not, but Esperanza provided patient and gentle guidance and encouragement and occasionally we were rewarded with a nicely puffed tortilla.

Following a brief snack of chicken tinga wrapped in our freshly-made tortillas, we turned our attention to quesadillas filled with epazote leaves, flor de calabaza (squash blossoms), a sliver of jalapeño, and a generous pinch of shredded quesillo.  We then folded, fried, and topped each with guacamole, chapulines (grasshoppers), guaje seeds, and queso fresco.  We took our creations out onto a table thoughtfully set on the rooftop with tablecloth, utensils, glasses, and a bottle of water.  Ooops, that wasn’t water, it was mezcal!!!  By the way, if we had cooked our quesadillas on a dry comal, they would have been called empanadas.  Either way, they were light, tender, and delicious!

Once fed and refreshed, we returned to the kitchen for the day’s crowning achievement — mole coloradito.  We separated various types of dried chiles from their seeds, added pinches and “lady” handfuls of herbs, spices, nuts, onions, garlic, ginger, raisins, and more to a pan to sauté.  However, I admit, we all fled the room when Esperaza began cooking the chiles, but returned for the blending, stirring, and simmering.

Once Esperanza discovered one of our class members was a vegetarian, she adapted a portion of each recipe for her.  Thus, while the carnivores among us prepared and savored chicken bathed in a silky smooth chicken broth-based red mole, our vegetariana dined on a equally divine water-based red mole enchilada.

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As rave Trip Advisor reviews attest, our smiling and satisfied group was not alone — there have been many happy customers.  The handwriting was on the wall…

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Agustín Canseco

By the way, for my Bay Area friends and relations, Agustín used to cook at the Hayes Street Grill, Zuni Cafe, and Vicolo Pizza, among other popular San Francisco restaurants.

Tomorrow, BFF, several friends and neighbors, and I head out for a day of mezcal tasting.  Hmmm… I wonder how long it will take to work that into a blog post?

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Back in Oaxaca and it’s scenes like this that make me smile…

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At the Tinoco y Palacios entrance to the Mercado Sanchez Pascuas.  Otate waiting to be made into escobas (brooms)?

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are in the rear view mirror,  December is upon us — only twenty-three more shopping days until Christmas — and the shopping frenzy in el norte continues.  Thanks, but no thanks, I say.   I prefer this…

Weaver from the Katyi Ya'a Taller Colectivo de Algodón Native (Collective workshop using native cottons)

Weaver from the Katyi Ya’a Taller Colectivo de Algodón Native (Collective workshop using native cottons)

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I took leisurely stroll down to the 2-day expo-venta (exposition and sale), sponsored by the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and held in the tranquility of the Centro Cultural San Pablo patio.  After much oohing and ahhing and talking with many of the artisans, I headed up 5 de mayo to one of my favorite pocket courtyards and the shops tucked in along its garden path…

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5 de mayo #408 – home to tapetes (rugs) at the Fe y Lola gallery and Seasons of My Heart retail store, among other small shops.

I won’t reveal where or if I bought anything — I wouldn’t want to spoil any Christmas surprises!  What I will say is… I prefer strolling to rushing; personally meeting and paying the artisans for their work to handing over a credit card at an impersonal department store; and, perhaps most of all, experiencing the pride radiated by an item’s creator when I admire their work.

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To borrow from Meredith Willson, it’s beginning to look a lot like Muertos…P1150004

Everywhere you go.

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No “five and tens” here…

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Just a street stall set up in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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Beginning to shop for my Día de Muertos ofrenda.

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“What do you do all day?”  It’s a question I’ve been asked countless times since I began my retired life down Oaxaca way and I’m not alone.  Most expats here have heard those words — a query that hints at the notion that there couldn’t possibly enough to fill the day in a place where one isn’t fluent in the language, isn’t surrounded by family and old friends, and doesn’t have a job.  A large part of the answer is, doing most everything takes longer.  And that is not a bad thing!  Perhaps, a photo diary of this morning’s grocery shopping excursion might provide an illustration.

After morning coffee and breakfast, catching up on email and the news, washing dishes, showering and dressing, I grabbed a couple of shopping bags and headed out at 10 AM.  The initial plan had been to walk up to Niños Heroes (the Pan American highway) to photograph some new murals, cross the highway to the Organic Market, and then return home by way of Sánchez Pascuas mercado where I could get chicken, quesillo, and anything else that remained on my shopping list or struck my fancy.  However, for almost an hour, I’d been hearing Guelaguetza music coming from the Plaza de la Danza.  I decided a detour was in order and found kindergartners performing Oaxaca’s traditional folkloric dances, including this one  where couples take turns “dissing” each other in a rhythmic double-entendre laden dialogue.  It always gets laughs — wish I could understand the jokes!  Needless to say, I hung out watching the kids for awhile.

P1080705I finally tore myself away and resumed my original itinerary.  Some of the murals were east of the Pochimilco Organic Market so I decided to start at the end and work my way back — a route which took me up the Macedonio Alcalá where I saw a sidewalk vignette of hats and scarves lined up in front of Santo Domingo.  There was also a small marmota (cloth globe on a pole) laying on its side, so I’m guessing there was to be a calenda (parade) of some sort.

P1080715After stopping to take a few photos (how could I resist the juxtaposition with the Peña Nieto graffiti?) I found myself behind these vendors taking their merchandise up to Llano Park for its Friday market.

P1080717Deciding to speed up my slow progress on the errands I’d set forth for the morning, I passed the gals only to stop to watch Oaxaca’s version of the dog whisperer working with four Xoloitzcuintlis (Mexican Hairless Dogs).

P1080722 (1)Eventually continuing north, I arrived at Niños Heroes and the murals and street art I’d come to find and photograph.  They deserve their own blog post, so I will save those photos for another day.  However, I also ran across this wonderful wall!  P1080752Crossing the highway, I found the newly built and landscaped stairs (almost didn’t recognize them) leading up to Xochimilco and the Pochimilco Organic Market.  I wandered and lingered and tasted — including a few of these mezcals, as I’ve got a US trip coming up and a stepson who probably won’t speak to me if I don’t bring him a couple of bottles.

P1080755Popping some gum in my mouth (didn’t want my breath to smell like I’m a lush), I headed south on Tinoco y Palacios to catch a couple of new murals I’d had fleeting glimpses of when returning from last Sunday’s trip to Tlacolula.  This one had particularly caught my eye.

P1080788By the time I arrived at Sánchez Pascuas, it was after 12 noon.  I found my poultry guy, paid a visit to the cheese vendor, picked up some veggies from my favorite produce gal, and, on the way out, bought some homemade salsa verde.  Yummm…  As I descended the three stairs down to the sidewalk, I turned around to admire the beautiful color of the flamboyant and jacaranda trees and the tranquility of this setting in the middle of the state’s bustling capital city.

P1080815It was close to 1 PM when I unlocked the door to my apartment.  If I were in California, I would have jumped in the car, driven down to the local Friday organic market (with not a drop of mezcal in sight), browsed a bit, spent way too much money, climbed back in the car to finish shopping at Safeway, before returning to the house, probably by 11 AM.

Here in Oaxaca, I’d been gone almost three hours, walked close to fifty (often hilly) blocks, and seen some wonderful, creative, and life affirming sights.  And, that doesn’t even include the scattering of conversations with my neighbors and Luís and Luci, who work here.  Just another Friday.  Not a bad way to live one’s life!

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There always seems to be live music in Tlacolula de Matamoros on Sunday market days.  Today it was the hot band, Los Magueyitos de Matalán.  The horns had me seeing stars!

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P1080616P1080614Hopefully, Chris over at Oaxaca-The Year After will eventually post the video he took.  In the meantime, here they are on SoundCloud.

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If it’s Sunday, it must be market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Women doing their marketing.

Women doing their marketing, and the men who follow.

Carne for the carnivores

Carne, right off the hoof, for the carnivores.

Delicious dining for the rest of us!

And, delicious dining for all!

Another delightful domingo in Oaxaca.

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Adiós to 2014.  It was another year filled with the always amazing and often surprising sights and sounds of Oaxaca.

January – The new year began with a Quinceañera at Iglesia Sangre de Cristo on the Macedonio Alcalá.

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February – Most of the month was spent in California and New York, but returned to Oaxaca sun, blue sky, and buildings with character.

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March – Ahhh… the flowers, the boys, and the girls of the “only in Oaxaca” Paseo de los Viernes de Cuaresma.IMG_2401

April – The banners of the Procesión del Silencio (Procession of Silence) on Good Friday during Semana Santa (Holy Week).

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May – Karen and Jasen Willenbrink exhibition at Gorilla Gallery.

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June – Pretty in pink, a protest by tuk-tuks (moto-taxis) on the zócalo.

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July – Up into the Sierra Norte for the Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres (Wild mushrooms fair) in San Antonio Cuajimoloyas.

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August – Mini Guelaguetza sponsored by the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) on the Plaza de la Danza.

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September – A rainy morning walk up to the presa (dam), Piedra Azul in Teotitlán del Valle.

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October – Day of the Dead tapetes de arena in progress on the Plaza de la Danza.

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November – Ofrenda in San Pablo Villa de Mitla with the village’s traditional and intricately decorated pan de muerto.

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December – Nochebuenas (poinsettias) for sale at mercado Sánchez Pascuas.

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Muchisimas gracias to all my wonderful 2014 blog readers! I am blown away that people from 125 countries have stopped by View from Casita Colibrí this year.  Your presence, comments, and encouragement have been SO very much appreciated.

¡Feliz año nuevo a tod@s!  I can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring.

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In between the virgin days, it’s beginning to look a lot like Navidad in Oaxaca…

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Piñatas on high at Mercado Benito Juárez.

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In the words of Flannery O’Connor, “Everything that rises must converge.”

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In front of the Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the lonas rise and the ropes converge.

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