Mexico 2019-20 part 2

The following gallery should have been in the last blog as we talked about the carpet factory in it.

The radish festival on December 23rd is a huge deal here, attracting hundreds of people to the Zocalo.  We decided to go early but, even then, it was mobbed with a long (2-hour) line up.  Someone took pity on us and directed us to a special entrance for the aged and infirm!  Swallowing our pride, off we went and got instant access and prime viewing.  Originally it began with farmers decorating their vegetable stalls to attract customers but now it has morphed into a competition with money prizes.  The radishes are different from our diminutive ones and all competitors had to source them from the government.  It was a one day event and the radishes had to be misted all the time to keep them looking white and fresh.

December 24th marks the Christmas celebration here and we were fortunate to be invited to Nora’s parents’ B&B for the festivities.  At six, a group of about thirty, guests, family and neighbours, gathered in the courtyard and, as darkness fell, were given lanterns and candles.  Half the group went out into the street to represent Mary and Joseph, while the inside group were the inn keepers.  We all had song sheets and sang alternate verses (in Spanish).  The seventh verse was sung in unison, celebrating Mary and Joseph having found room at the inn and the two groups were reunited inside.  We then all sang carols together.  After that, it was piñata time and first the kids and then some adults destroyed two piñatas and everyone gathered up the candy and money that spilled out.  Nora’s mom provided mulled wine , a buffet supper and a good time was had by all.  I really wished I had more fluent Spanish to express our appreciation for the generous hospitality.

On the 28th was my cooking class with Nora and I was totally impressed with its professionalism.  There were nine of us, a family of four and a gay male couple from Colorado, two young women, one from Dublin, the other from Belgium and me.    We started off with an explanation of the cuisine and how it had been a major factor in Oaxaca being made a UNESCO World heritage site.  Then we went to the Mercado, where R and I had been doing our shopping, without any real understanding of the range of produce available.  We found out about the wide range of peppers, the special cheeses, the organic vegetables and the herbs.  Then it was back to Nora’s kitchen where we all donned aprons as it was very hands on.  We produced guacamole on cactus leaves, chicken soup, tamales and chocolate dessert.  Everyone was happy to pitch in, chopping, grilling, stirring.  We individually assembled the tamales from the chicken mole we made as a group.  Then we all sat around the beautifully appointed dining room table to sample the results of our labours.  Robin got to eat with us.

Another highlight was our visit to the Oaxacan Museum of Culture, which houses just about all the treasures found in the major tomb at Monte Alban.   It was discovered in the 1930s by an American archeologist and the find was on a par with Tutankhamen, with gold, silver, jade and thousands of intricate beads, which the team had painstakingly restrung.

Another high spot was a visit to a very special garden, recommended by a volunteer at the library.  It was a thirty minute cab ride away and even the cab driver didn’t know where he was headed.  It was owned by the designer of the botanical garden and was a real secret garden hidden away behind high bamboo screens.  It was a true Mexican garden full of cacti and succulents, looking stunning under the hot sun.  The garden art ranged from tiny dragon flies perched on plants to huge sculptures – quirky but just right.  There was a water feature full of fish that was large enough to accommodate a dugout canoe full of succulents.

Now we are back in Mexico City for a couple of nights before departing by bus to San Miguel.