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Archive for the ‘Renovation’ Category

From top to bottom, Guelaguetza preparations are in full swing.  There is yet another attempt in the Never-ending tale of a velaria, as workers scramble hundreds of feet in the air to add the missing “wings” to the Guelaguetza Auditorium canopy.

Guelaguetza Auditorium velaria

Workmen are prepping buildings in the Historic District for fresh coats of paint.

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Construction is underway in Llano Park (aka, Paseo Juárez “El Llano”) to ready it for the XIX Feria Internacional del Mezcal 2016.

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Near the top of Macedonio Alcalá (aka, Andador Turístico), puestos (booths) have been erected for artisans, invited from throughout the state, to display and (hopefully) sell their wares.

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And, everyone is holding their breath and making offerings to the gods overseeing phase two of the García Vigil pedestrian walkway that the work will be completed before the first Guelaguetza desfile (parade of delegations) on July 23.

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And, me?  I just bought tickets to the Mole Festival degustación at the Jardín Etnobotánico on July 22!  Yummm…

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I usually don’t spend much time walking along Crespo — the bus fumes and traffic noise are enough to have one holding one’s nose, covering one’s ears, and detouring to another street, as soon as possible!  However, a (not-so-little) birdie told me to check out the stairs up to the Guelaguetza Auditorium.

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Yikes!!!   An improvement project has been underway from Crespo all the way up to the Auditorium since the end of April.  Runners, walkers, and residents need to use an alternative route.  As the sign says, “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

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I spoke to one of the workmen and asked, if the project is going to be finished in time for the Guelaguetza.  After all, the first performance of Donají la Leyenda is scheduled for the night of July 24 and la Guelaguetza begins the following morning — that’s less than a month away.  He assured me the work would be completed.

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Speaking of the Guelaguetza…  Vive Oaxaca has a notice (in red, no less!) essentially saying, that because of the number of messages they have received regarding information about the current conflicts in Oaxaca, they feel compelled to announce that they have no information about the cancellation of Guelaguetza.  As far as they know, everything is continuing as planned, but advise visitors to monitor official information from the Ministry of Tourism and Economic Development of the State of Oaxaca.

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I know I promised that Talavera transformation, the end was the end of the talavera tile projects.  However, what can I say?   It’s been almost two years and the outdoor counter was too small to be functional, not to mention that the 25+ year old glass tiles kept loosening and falling off the sink area.

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Modeled after my kitchen sink project, two other kitchens in my apartment complex had recently received a facelift and had used up most of the tiles squirreled away in the bodega.   But, I was determined and the expansion project began.

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Despite the lack of tiles, the previously mentioned, Sebastián and Leonardo began framing the new counter top.  The first attempt at purchasing more tiles at Materiales Venecia (on the way to Tule) ended in a police bloqueo.  We (thank you, Chris) turned around and headed over to Home Depot.  No talavera tiles.  Then Romasa.  Also, no dice.

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Push came to shove, the tiling needed to begin!  So, the following day, we again set out for Materiales Venecia — this time, smooth sailing and success.  With dimensions, a design, and a calculator in hand, the math was done (while squatting on the sidewalk) and boxes of green and dark terracotta tiles were purchased.

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I’d bought the accent pieces years ago at a Oaxaca Lending Library bazaar, had planned the design around them, and was SO glad to finally see them being put to use.

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After two weeks of on again/off again work, depending on their work schedule and my ability to obtain materials, the counter was finished and I immediately went out in search of stools, so I could belly-up to the bar to sip my morning coffee and sunset glass of wine.

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I love it!  And, besides serving as a delightful place to eat breakfast and dinner, the added storage under the counter is fantastic.  No more looking at the plastic garbage cans holding dirt, stacks of buckets, and leftover paint cans — thanks to shower curtains.

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What’s next?  Who knows…

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Lots of street action around the city these days, and I don’t just mean marches and blockades!  They’ve been hard at work on an Andador Semipeatonal (semi-walking street) since ground was broken on November 24, 2014.

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Garcia Vigil has been a construction zone from Templo del Carmen Alto up to the Cruz de Piedra.  No cars and trucks allowed, but we pedestrians can walk right on through.

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The work on this and the four other downtown streets that have been earmarked for “rescue” and “beautification” is mostly done the old-fashioned way.  What can I say?  I love the sound of hammer and chisel!

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According to news reports, the street will be spiffed up with garbage bins, benches, and planters.  Ramps for people with limited mobility and signs for the visually impaired are in the plan, though a bike lane is only contemplated.

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Oaxaqueñ@s work really hard!

 

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Just because the concrete stairs were ugly, the bodega held more tile, Nalo is a maestro…

2 concrete stairs

and what’s a little more talavera between friends?

2 stairs with tile on risers

The end, I promise!

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For those of you who may not be aware, most Mexican bedrooms and bathrooms are small.  In the US, it’s what I grew up with and lived with most of my life, so I’m cool with that.  However, what has driven me nuts is the lack of a bathroom counter.  How does one handle toothbrush, tube of toothpaste, and water bottle, without at least one of the items ending up in the sink or on the floor?  And, forget trying to apply makeup!

Small white bathroom sink

So, when I moved into my bigger and better, but also with the aforementioned deficiency, apartment a year and a half ago, it became number one on my “find a way to fix” list. Serendipity motivated me into action, when I happened upon a talavera sink and surround on sale AND discovered a treasure trove of leftover talavera tiles in the bodega (storage shed) here at my apartment complex.  Project proposed and permission given by the property’s owner (thanks Doug), I hired a contractor, and work began.

brick and wood framing for counter

Being completely ignorant of construction of this type, I was fascinated by the process.

Concrete countertop

Once I’d received the okay for the project, I began hauling up buckets of mismatched tiles from the bodega and laying them out on the floor of my main room — in an attempt to create some sort of unified design — it was exciting to see it materialize.

Counter with tile

The finished project…

Talavera bathroom sink and counter

And, take a look at the side — it’s what one see’s when opening the bathroom door.  I think Nalo and his crew did a super job!

Side of talavera counter

What a difference a bathroom counter makes.  Form and function!!!

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I moved into the bigger and better Casita Colibrí (aka, my apartment) almost 16 months ago — and there’s been some big changes made!  First on the agenda was screens on doors and windows because, as I’ve mentioned before, Mexican mosquitoes love me.  Next up was the swimming pool…

Empty swimming pool

I know, living in a climate where the daytime temperatures hover between the high 70s and low 90s (Fahrenheit) year round, a swimming pool sounds like perfection.  I love to swim and have always wanted a swimming pool.  HOWEVER, the pool hasn’t seen anything more than rainwater (and the aforementioned and unwanted mosquitoes) for the past 15 to 20 years.  In addition, as we were reminded last week, this is earthquake country, so who knows how many cracks there may be hidden behind those tiles.  Then there is the not-so-little problem of water shortages in the city.
P1080300Thus, making it my personal aquatic paradise was out of the question.  What to do?   Besides being unsightly, I was constantly afraid someone (including myself) might become so enchanted with the view and/or engaged in such captivating conversation, they (I) would unwittingly fall in — a thought that brought nightmares!  As you can see above, my solution to that possibility was to barricade the pool with plants.  However, the combination of the still conspicuous and ugly gaping hole behind, not to mention the waste of valuable space, finally got to me and, though only a renter, I decided to build a deck!

Deck being constructed over empty pool

In October, Juan (of Adios mosquitos fame) and I boarded a bus for the La Asunción to pick out the lumber from their mind-boggling selection of wood.  They delivered four days later and Juan and Nacho, his trusty assistant, commenced to building, what is probably, the strongest deck in all of Oaxaca.

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The space.  The view.  What an improvement!  However, that wasn’t the end of the story.  Do you see those four posts sticking up from the deck?  Because the deck faces south, those were for a much-needed shade structure.  Alas, Juan also has a “day” job at Gorilla Glass and they have gotten extremely busy.  Good for them, bad for me!  After I returned from the trip to the US in late February, I began a search for someone to complete the project.  Tom (a friend’s husband) came to the rescue.  He designed the structure, recruited Carlos and his assistant Chivo to build it, selected the materials, delivered said materials and crew, and supervised construction.  Needless to say, I owe Tom big time!

Shade structure under construction

Yesterday, after less than two days of construction, the long-awaited gazebo was ready to shield yours truly and her visitors from the sun’s skin damaging rays, not to mention sweltering heat.  Almost immediately after the guys finished, the heavens opened and we were treated to a massive, five-hour long thunderstorm.  The timing couldn’t have been better!

Lamina & wood shade structure on wooden deck

By this morning the rains had departed and, with Templo de San José and the Basilica de la Soledad as a backdrop, my new outside room was ready for her close-up.  All day today, in between trying to get work done around the house, I kept running outside to admire it.

View from above of deck & shade structure

And, it has already been put to good use — a little after noon today, when the sun was at its zenith and sitting outside in days past would have been the last thing we would have considered, my neighbor Marga and I sat comfortably shielded from the sun in those green chairs.  Ahhh…

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Braving 90+º F temperatures this afternoon, I headed down to the, you-can-buy-anything-you-want, Mercado Benito Juárez.  This is my “go to” market for nueces (pecans), arándanos (dried cranberries), coffee beans, chapulines (grasshoppers), fruits, and vegetables.  There is also mole, meats, fish, textiles, flowers, souvenirs, piñatas, costumes, lucha libre masks, baskets, leather goods, hats, hair-care products, jewelry, and much more — the original “mall.”

Today, all I needed was my favorite tiny Dominico bananas and a couple of avocados.  However, suspicion set in when I noticed NO double-parked vehicles or even much traffic on Las Casas.  A bloqueo (blockade)?  No.  Muy extraño (very strange).  I crossed the street and walked down to my regular entrance into the market and noticed the corrugated metal doors of the vendor stalls along the street were tightly shut and then saw a sign at the gate to the market that read…

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Closed for maintenance work!!!  No reason why, no re-opening date, and no relocation site for the vendors was given.  I flashed on visions of the six-month renovation of my neighborhood, Mercado IV Centenario.  Hmmm… does it have something to do with the aguas negras (sewage), due to a short-circuit underground that was reported last week?  I’m guessing, yes.  According to today’s report in NSS Oaxaca, there is dredging going on (Oaxaca’s version of Roto Rooter?), vendors will then clean up (disinfect?) their stalls, and the mercado will reopen tomorrow.  Por favor, keep your fingers crossed.

Update:  Mercado Benito Juárez re-opened yesterday, as promised.  According to my favorite fruit and vegetable vendor, it was closed on Wednesday due to the aguas negras problem.

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Monte Alban and the historic center of Oaxaca are coming up on the twenty-sixth anniversary of being designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.  And, as I write, the city is hosting the XII World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities, with delegations from 230 other World Heritage cities in town for the 4-day conference.

It is to be expected that any host city would get out the spit and polish to show itself in the best light and Oaxaca is no exception.  The city is being cleaned to the nth degree and, much to driver and passenger delight and relief, the ubiquitous baches (potholes) throughout the city have been patched.

And graffiti?  It’s history, as soon as it appears.

Besides the much-welcome repair of treacherous streets, squeaky clean sidewalks, and pristine building facades, there is something else missing.  Where have all the ambulantes (street vendors) gone?  If you have ever been to Oaxaca, you will no doubt remember the indigenous vendor puestos (across from the Cathedral) that line the Alameda de León from the Post Office to the Hotel Monte Alban.  They are gone, along with the ambulantes in the plaza alongside Carmen Alto.  Even the lovely women from San Antonino Castillo Velasco, who sell their beautiful, intricately hand-embroidered wedding dresses and blouses along Macedonio Alcalá, have been removed from the street.

I later discovered, the latter have been temporarily relocated to the courtyard of the Biblioteca Pública Central.

But what of the other vendors?  Where are they?  Are they being compensated for lost revenue?  According to this article in Proceso, market trader organizations, “agreed to withdraw for six days without compensation.”  Hmmm….

I have to ask, why?  Is it just colonial buildings and archeological sites that warrant a World Heritage site designation?  I don’t think so.  Oaxaca is an incredibly vibrant, living breathing city whose primary value and cultural heritage lies not in her buildings, but with her people, especially her indigenous citizens, who have given and continue to give much of what makes Oaxaca so special — their food, music, artistry, and kind, strong, and gentle presence.  In 2007, on my first visit, it’s what had me at, hola!

According to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website, regarding Oaxaca and Monte Alban, criterion IV states, “Among some 200 pre-Hispanic archaeological sites inventoried in the valley of Oaxaca, the Monte Alban complex best represents the singular evolution of a region inhabited by a succession of peoples: the Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs. The City of Oaxaca, with its design as a check board and its iconic architecture, has developed over more than four centuries as evidence of the fusion of two cultures Indian and Spanish.”  [my emphasis]

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After the 3-day moving adventure, Monday morning I walked down to the Transporte Terrestre office (next to Oaxaca’s Post Office, across the Alameda from the Cathedral) to buy an airport shuttle ticket for my Tuesday morning, bordering on crack-of-dawn, flight to California.  At 55 pesos (less than $4.50 US) from my apartment in the Centro Histórico (more outside the historic district), it’s a bargain.

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The driver pulled up at 6 AM on the dot.  Unfortunately, instead of ringing my buzzer, he began banging on the massive iron front gate and shouting, thereby waking my neighbors with apartments closer to the gate.  Then, of course, there was the fact that, in my physically and (apparently) mentally exhausted state the night before, I’d set my alarm for the wrong time, and had only awakened 20 minutes before his noisy arrival. So, with teeth brushed but no shower, no make-up, and probably irritated neighbors, I set off for el norte.  This trip was not off to a promising start!

The other two passengers and I were dropped off at the Oaxaca Xoxocotlán International Airport’s new departure terminal.  Modern, light, airy, signs and announcements in Spanish and English, mezcal and gift shops (but no food!) — everything’s up-to-date in Oaxaca’s new departure terminal.

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However, one still must walk outside to get to the old terminal (now dedicated to arrivals) where the only bathrooms, before going through security, are located — a minor hiccup for passengers, but a major inconvenience for airport staff!  Renovation connecting the two terminals is in the works.

There were only a couple of other people lined up at United’s desk and my turn came in less than 5 minutes.  Hoisting my suitcase up on the scale, handing over my passport and flight information, I was prepared to be on my way through security in no time.

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Dream on…  for some unexplained reason, the United customer service agent did not like what she saw when she ran my passport through the scanner.  Conversation with the other agent, calls to a superior (who I could see standing in a doorway on the second floor balcony), more computer input and passport scanning, and the line behind me began growing.  Did I mention, this trip was not off to a promising start?

After twenty minutes, whatever problem my passport possessed was miraculously unraveled and I was on my way through security.  It was at this point, ravenously hungry, I began silently chanting to the cocina goddess, that a food stall or at least the convenience store would be open.  In September (my first experience with the new terminal) I sat, with stomach grumbling, at my gate for an hour before the convenience store opened its doors.

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This time around, I and other early morning passengers were in luck — various puestos were open to satisfy hunger pangs, snack food cravings, and caffeine withdrawal.  I opted for a generous and delicious cup of coffee and a ham and quesillo torta, topped with tomato, avocado, chile pepper, and lettuce — filling and yummy.

With a happily satisfied stomach, I walked out into Oaxaca’s warm winter morning air, boarded the little Embraer, and, after a brief delay on the tarmac (mechanical difficulty rapidly solved), we took off into the wild (and clear) blue yonder.  Circling twice over the city to gain altitude, the pilot provided us with a couple of bird’s-eye views of Monte Albán and the newly opened Atzompa archeological sites.  Not a bad beginning, after all — the journey northward was definitely looking up!

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On my first visit to Oaxaca, I was introduced to Jardín Sócrates, part of the Templo de la Soledad/Plaza de la Danza complex, between Independencia and Morelos.  The original Jardín Sócrates was constructed as a public garden in 1881 and remodeled for its 100th birthday.

Pink and white iron chairs and umbrella in front of a neveria stand.

I have a weakness for ice cream, sherbet, and gelato and, thus, was completely “in heaven” being surrounded by stands selling the most amazing flavors of  milk and water based frozen desserts.

Green and yellow iron chairs and umbrellas in front of a neveria stand.

Everyone has their favorite vendor, my friend G was partial to Nevería Malena, and so we sat down at one of their yellow and white iron tables.

Yellow and white iron chairs and umbrellas in front of the Nevería Malena stand.

It was SO hard to decide what to order; being tempted by too many choices and being mystified by what many of the flavors actually were.

Nevería Malena sign listing 34 flavors

What in the world is Beso de Angel?  I settled on a scoop of Leche Quemada (burnt milk) with a scoop of Tuna (fruit of the nopal cactus NOT the fish) on top.  I was hooked!

Bowl of leche quemada and tuna nieve on yellow and white iron table.

As it worked out, two years later I moved into an apartment only a block away and I pass by Jardín Sócrates at least a couple of times a week.   However, in mid October 2011, carpenters began constructing wooden puestos along Independencía below the Jardín.  Ready for a feria?  I wondered.  Then they were painted!  These took on a semi-permanent character.  Hmmm…

Wooden puestos lining sidewalk.

Soon, a sign went up explaining the Jardín Sócrates was undergoing an “image enhancement,” courtesy of the federal and municipal governments.

Programa Habitat 2011; Gobierno Federal sign.

Demolition soon began, including the removal of the original green cantera (stone) pavement.

Pile of old paving stones

And, the neverías began moving down to the temporary puestos on Independencia.  I found Nevería Malena, ordered my usual, and asked how long the relocation was going to last.  “No sé.”  (“Don’t know.”) was the answer.

Iron tables, chairs, and puestos on sidewalk.

Eight new stalls were constructed, the cantera was replaced with red terracotta tile, and new tables, chairs, and umbrellas materialized.  After five months,  the newly “enhanced” Jardín Sócrates opened on March 29, 2012.

Fountain and green umbrellas on terracotta paved terrace.

It does look lovely — orderly and coordinated — but I kind of miss the color and funkiness of the old.

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Be it looking down from the windows above, strolling through the gardens on a tour, or peeking through openings in the wall on Reforma or Berriozabal on the way to someplace else, Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden is always a soothing and uplifting sight.

Looking out from window above Ethnobotanical Garden

Check out this informative and enlightening article by Jeff Spurrier discussing the origins and vision of  Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden — from the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Garden Design:

Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden

“I am not a gardener.” Francisco Toledo is sitting in the courtyard of the graphic art institute he founded in downtown Oaxaca City, Mexico, sipping on a glass of agua de jamaica. His fingers are paint-smudged, and he moves stiffly from a sore back. Toledo, 71, is one of Mexico’s best-known living artists; his paintings, sculptures, and textiles are in galleries and museums around the world. At home in Mexico, he is identified with a fierce and outspoken defense of the indigenous arts and culture of the southern state of Oaxaca. He also, as it turns out, helped to create one of the world’s most original public gardens.

“The professionals are the people who live in the country,” he says. “The campesinos and workers — I don’t have the patience.”

Nearly 20 years ago, the Mexican military moved out of a 16th-century Santo Domingo monastery complex it had used as a base for more than 120 years. Mexico’s president gave the exit order after being lobbied by Toledo and other leading artists and intellectuals belonging to Pro-Oax, an advocacy group urging the promotion and protection of art, culture, and the natural environment in Oaxaca. Soon, a great clamor began: The state government wanted the five-acre parcel in the heart of downtown Oaxaca City to create a hotel, convention center, and parking facility. A restoration team brought in by the National Institute of Anthropology and History wanted to establish a European garden in the 17th-century baroque style. Some of Toledo’s fellow artists wanted to use the grounds for workshops and exhibition space.

n 1993, when Toledo knew the army would be leaving, he asked Alejandro de Ávila B., who had family roots in Oaxaca and training in anthropology, biology, and linguistics, what he and other advocates would propose. De Ávila suggested making the space into a botanic garden — or, more precisely, an ethnobotanic garden, one that would “show the interaction of plants and people.”

I highly recommend reading the Full Article.

h/t  Norma and Roberta

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A clean-looking Oaxaca, brought to you by Oaxaca’s Secretary of Infrastructure.

Sign on street:  "Todos x un Oaxaca + limpio"

According to the state government’s website, a 45 million peso project was launched to “visually rehabilitate” 94,000 buildings in 25 urban communities.   Begun in July in San Bartolo Coyotepec (14 miles south of Oaxaca City), it has now reached my ‘hood.

2 painters with 10+ buckets of paint

Ladders, paint buckets, and painters up and down the block.

2 painters painting a pale blue building

By the way, because this is the Centro Histórico, the colors are selected from a previously approved palette.  Baby blue?  I wonder if the owners of the buildings have any say…

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… in all manner of ways; there’s a lot of that here.  Successful meetings between old and new are a matter of debate.  The newly renovated Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo is no exception.  It was acquired, designed by architect Mauricio Rocha, renovated, and repurposed by the Alfredo Harp Helú Foundation.

Located in the heart of the historic district, between the Museo Textil and the Teatro Macedonio Alcalá, this former Dominican convent, originally established in 1529, has been one of those ubiquitous crumbling and peligrosos buildings for a long time.  In addition, to the features of the original cloister, archeological remains from 2,500 years ago were uncovered and have been preserved.

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The buildings will house a research center (including a library), dedicated to the study of the languages and cultures of the indigenous of Oaxaca, serve as a venue for cultural presentations, and provide exhibit space for the philanthropic endeavors of the Alfredo Harp Helú Foundation, which (among several others) includes the Textile Museum, Museum of Philately (stamps), Institute of Oaxacan Historic , and Children’s Library.

The grand opening, with all the requisite fanfare and dignitaries, was November 26.  Alas, I missed it!  However, the courtyard provided the setting for several performances during the Instrumenta Oaxaca 2011, a 2-week long chamber music festival that ran from November 3rd to the 18th; two of which I attended.  I was dazzled by the setting (and the acoustics weren’t bad, either) and was especially gratified that the library, which the seating faced, presented a prominent and dramatic architectural feature.

Written on the wall of the building housing a small collection from the BS: Biblioteca Infantil (Children’s Library), a quote from Dostoyevsky (of all people):  Los libros son mi aliento, mi vida y mi futuro.  In English:  Books are my breath, my life and my future.

For more (in English) about the Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo, see Norma Hawthorne’s article, Oaxaca Center Promotes Indigenous Language and Culture, Opens November 26, 2011.

Update:  Read how this cultural and historical gem, lost in plain sight.

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