The Alebrijes of Tilcajete: Excursions in Oaxaca

San Martín Tilcajete is a magical artisan village not far from Oaxaca City. Its specialty is alebrijes, whimsical figures carved from copal wood. We visited the workshop of Jacobo and María Ángeles, the largest and most famous workshop in the village. Boy, was it ever impressive! We got to see every stage of the production process, from preparing the wood and the paints to carving, sanding and painting. The amount of time and attention to detail that goes into these sculptures is incredible! The workshop itself was like something out of a fairytale. It’s difficult to describe it all in words, so here are some of my favourite photos! Continue reading

Village of Weaving: Excursions in Oaxaca

Every small village surrounding Oaxaca specializes in the production of some sort of traditional handicraft or food. The variety and quality of handmade products in the region is astounding!

The village of Santo Tomás Jalieza is known for its cotton belts and other textiles handwoven with traditional backstrap looms. One afternoon, with a group of students from the Spanish school, I had the opportunity to visit the home of the amazing Navarro Gómez family. Mariana and her three grown daughters are all professional weavers. Their whole family lives in one large house and their workshop is on their patio. They make all their weavings outdoors, because they need natural daylight in order to see their detailed work. The daughters work almost every single day, usually sitting on the ground, with their looms tethered to a tree. Their home is a magical place slightly off the beaten path, full of plants, color and light. We got to chat quite a lot with the family and observed two of the daughters hard at work. Continue reading

Jardín Etnobotánico: Excursions in Oaxaca

¡Hola! Today I’d like to share another little snippet of my trip to Oaxaca with you! To me, one of the most unexpectedly magical places in the city is the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca. Oaxaca City has a hot desert climate, so its version of a botanical garden is, as you’d expect, full of cacti (or cactuses or cactus, depending on where you’re from… apparently there really are 3 options for the plural form of cactus)! Continue reading

Street Art in Oaxaca – Instagramming Part 2

Oaxaca is a city teeming with creativity. Aside from being a hotspot for beautiful, well-made traditional handicrafts and handmade goods, it’s got some wicked street art! It’s impossible to walk down the street without coming across some sort of graffiti. Popular themes in the city seem to be skulls and scenes from the Día de los Muertos, stylized animals or prehispanic symbols, references to freedom, peace and human rights, anti-government messages and funky abstract art. Of course, anything goes, but I enjoy the fact that very few buildings seem unnecessarily tagged with crude comments or ugly signatures. The Xochimilco neighbourhood is a popular spot for great street art, as well as the area south of the Zócalo near the central markets and, as I mentioned in a previous post, the railroad museum (Museo del Ferrocarril) is definitely worth a look. Continue reading

Tortillas and Cuilapan de Guerrero

There is so much to see and do in Oaxaca! We could have stayed for a year and still not end up seeing everything! Some places, Mum and I visited on our own after our morning Spanish lessons or on weekends. Twice a week, we went on excursions with the other students from the Oaxaca International Language School. One of the perks of the trips organized by the language school was that Ileana, the school’s director and a native Oaxacan, has friends and contacts all over the region! Thanks to her, we were able to get an inside experience of some of the best and most beautiful arts and culture that Oaxaca has to offer. Continue reading

A New Year

Well, here we are! It’s the first day of 2016 and our first day back home. Returning to real life is going to be bittersweet. Reverse culture shock is a real thing and I’m already starting to feel it! Coming from Oaxaca’s warm, sunny weather to frozen, snow-covered Ottawa is far from being the hardest part. I fell in love with Oaxaca and I’ll miss it terribly. However, I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family and I’m curious to find out what the new year will bring! Continue reading

Silvia María

Yesterday afternoon, in the courtyard of our Spanish school, we got an incredible surprise – a private concert by Silvia María, a true Oaxacan treasure. I didn’t know that an individual could be considered part of a region’s cultural heritage, just like an important landmark or a work of art. But apparently it is possible, and this woman is one such “cultural heritage” icon. Raised in Oaxaca, she has performed for over 60 years and has a wide repertoire of songs from every region of her home state. She also performs songs from all over Mexico and the world. From the very first note, I was completely entranced by her music. Some experiences are difficult to describe in words. I recorded this video of Silvia María singing La llorona, one of my favourite Mexican folk songs. If you have a few minutes, check it out! You won’t be disappointed! Continue reading

Medicine: A Story of Generosity

On the way to the park for the Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe celebrations, we came across a homeless indigenous family huddled on the sidewalk. One of their three young children had a terrible cough. Out of the blue, a woman walked up to them and took a small bottle out of her tattered purse. She said, in Spanish, “My baby has a bad cough as well. I just bought this medicine for her at the pharmacy. Take it. I have enough for one more bottle.” Medicine is extremely expensive here in Mexico, especially for those who can’t afford health insurance. We may just have witnessed a life being saved. I never cease to be amazed by the everyday generosity of the Oaxacan people. One love. ❤️