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Posts Tagged ‘San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center’

Day four of B’s Week in Oaxaca had B relying on yours truly for the day’s sights and sounds.  Where to begin?  The answer, because it was near Casita Colibrí and we had just been to Mitla and Monte Albán, was the Museo de Arte Prehispánico de México Rufino Tamayo (Rufino Tamayo Museum of Prehispanic Art).  The collection is spread over five rooms surrounding a courtyard in a 16th century colonial building.  Each room is painted a different iconic Mexican color, chosen by the late Zapotec Oaxaqueño artist Rufino Tamayo, to highlight the pieces of his extraordinary collection.

Next we walked down to and through the iron gates, designed by Francisco Toledo, and across the brick pathway of the Centro Cultural San Pablo (Cultural Center of San Pablo).  We explored the interior rooms of this ex-convent, now an academic research and cultural center, that hosts concerts, lectures, exhibitions, and houses a library.  Pausing to rest, we took advantage of the cafe in the courtyard to order a couple of aguas.

Our thirst quenched, we walked around the corner to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca (Textile Museum of Oaxaca) to explore the ground floor and upstairs exhibitions of one of this textile lover’s favorite museums.  One of the exhibits was the stunning “Almas bordadas, vestido y ornamento en el Istmo de Tehuantepec” — displaying the iconic embroidered clothing of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  (Think, the dress of Frida Kahlo.)

Forty-five minutes later, we were certifiably hungry and, lucky for us, Origen, restaurant of Top Chef Mexico 2016 winner, Rodolfo Castellanos, and one of my oft recommended restaurants in Oaxaca, was only a block away.  As always, its relaxing interior, attentive service, and delicious food provided a perfect respite.

Once rested and satiated, it felt good to set feet to pavement for the short walk to the Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption).  The cathedral towers over the zocaló and the Alameda.  The construction of this green cantera (stone) edifice began in 1535 and was consecrated on July 12, 1733.  It is dominated by a spectacular altar and lined, on both sides, with chapels — the most important being that of Señor del Rayo.  In addition, it is home to one of the historic pipe organs of Oaxaca.

After being wowed by the Cathedral’s soaring ceiling, altar, art, chapels, and organ, we crossed Independencia for a taste of the modern — the Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños (Museum of Oaxacan Painters).  This, often overlooked, two-story restored colonial era mansion showcases the creativity and talent of Oaxaca’s painters.  I had been to the museum only a month before, but the exhibitions are ever-changing, and new artists were on display.

Of course, no day in Oaxaca is complete without a parade and we were not disappointed.  We departed the Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños to be greeted with a calenda (parade) by “Ranchu Gubiña” from Union Hidalgo in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region — attired in clothing similar to that which we had seen earlier in the day at the textile museum.  We had come full circle!

Another long day’s journey into evening….  However, we weren’t finished yet; two more days await!

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We are still enjoying the Christmas merry-go-round in Oaxaca.  Lucky for “children” young and old, the San Pablo Cultural and Educational Center has even provided a real (not just metaphorical) carousel to hop on during this holiday season.  And today, along with riding the merry-go-round, in honor of Día de Reyes, all were welcome to partake in the traditional Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings cake) — served by none other than Tato, the birdbrain (after all he is an ostrich) Oaxaca Guerreros team (baseball) mascot (though I think he was doing more eating than serving).  Thankfully, on this chilly night, there was also hot chocolate (with milk or water, your choice) with which to warm hands and dip cake.

Whew!!!  A baby Jesus figurine was not found in my piece of Rosca de Reyes, so I won’t have to throw a tamale and atole party on Candlemas, February 2nd, for everyone present at this evening’s festivities.

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In 1999, UNESCO designated February 21 as International Mother Language Day.  Tomorrow, February 20, Oaxaca begins her own celebration of Día Internacional de la Lengua Materna 2013 with a 2-day conference.

dia internacional de la lengua materna oaxaca 2013

The issue of “lenguas maternas” has a particular resonance in Oaxaca, as the state is home to 16 distinct ethnolinguistic groups:  Amuzgos, Chatino, Chinanteco, Chocho, Chontal, Cuicateco, Huave, Ixcateco, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Náhuatl, Popoloca, Triqui, Zapoteco, and Zoque.  As anyone who has visited the villages of Oaxaca has discovered, sometimes the abuelos and abuelas only speak their native language, not Spanish.

However, as Ernestina Gaitán Cruz notes in an article in sinembargo.mx, most of these indigenous languages lack an alphabet, having been passed from one generation to another through an oral tradition, and because these “Mother Tongues” are not taught in the schools, a significant number of these languages are in danger of becoming extinct.

Oaxaca is not alone.  From the article, Indigenous Youth Step up to Protect their Roots:

UNESCO estimates that every two weeks, one language disappears from the world.

Education systems have historically played a large part in the disappearance of indigenous languages, sometimes even forcing their extinction by severely punishing and shaming children for speaking native tongues or expressing indigenous identity in any way.

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In some communities where a large portion of the population speaks only the native language, another issue arises: access to important information on topics such as health care, employment opportunities, legal rights and public services.

And, it isn’t just a particular community that suffers, as The Endangered Languages Project explains, The disappearance of a language means the loss of valuable scientific and cultural information.

Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle

Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle

One of the missions of the Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo in the city of Oaxaca is to document, study, and preserve the indigenous languages of Oaxaca.  The center includes a library, offers language classes, and will be hosting several events during Día Internacional de la Lengua Materna 2013.

Cartel-web-cursos-2013

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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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