Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's this...?
Let's get closer...
Uh oh.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Day of the Dead

I was trying to think where I was last year around this time--as I can't recall distinctly the flurry of events that has overtaken Oaxaca in the past several days. It is Day of the Dead--a big celebration here in Oaxaca. The part of the city that finds itself inside offices or schools starts to shut down on Wednesday. And the the city that exists in the cobblestone streets, in restaurants, out in small municipalities with dirt roads, just outside the city center, in cemeteries and in the foyers of many a family home starts to come alive. It's high tourist season here. Normally, that drives me inside, away from the crowds of strangers marching around with their cameras and fanny packs. But this year, I want to explore a bit. And so...

After a much-needed early evening nap (it's been that kind of day), I take off with Rafael to explore the Panteón General (the main cemetery inside city limits). All the niches are filled with candlelight. But we're a day early for the main festivities--so the sand sculptures are not yet up. We snake around ancient grave sites teetering above ground level, the earth seeming to push some coffins right up to join us. And then we stumble upon a concert; right there, wedged between some niches and graves. It's Mozart's Requiem--appropriate. People are lounging on top of tombs, leaning against stone Virgin Mary's, or giant crucifixes. Rafael and I nudge our way right next to the choir, squatting in the dust on the edge of a giant tomb. This is unreal.

Next we make our way for San Martín Mexicampam. I've been tantalizing Rafael with stories of the "best Tlayuda in town." He wants to try it out for himself. I'm wondering if the tiny hole-in-the-wall place that Juliette and Felipe introduced me to will be open at midnight on a Thursday. Of course it is! Midnight is prime Tlayuda time, of course! We wrangle ourselves a four top and order up. The service is syrupy slow tonight. We yawn. Rafael puts his head down. But the food comes, steaming hot. I open my Tlayuda like a book, fanning some cold air into it just like Felipe.

Once stuffed, we chug in the Volkswagen up hill toward neighboring Atzompa, where I've heard rumor of amazing decorations and food. Laura and her visiting gang are there. They've already done a lap and are huddled around in a circle drinking hot chocolate when we arrive. Rafael and I share a cup for ourselves, and some pan de muertos. We stroll through the tiny cemetery. It is so adorned with flowers in the bright yellows and pinks so common at this time of year, towering candles and photos that there's hardly room to walk. Someone is filming, a camera posed atop a makeshift crane is parked in the far corner of this place. A band has been hired and is playing, rather loudly, a serenade for our dead friends.

Once chocolate and bread has been downed, it's time to go. It's only 1:30 or so (an early night for many a Día de los Muertos reveler), but our group is ready to depart. We pile (all seven of us) into Rafael's little sedan. It doesn't help that Laura and 3 of her friends are all gringo height (towering at 6' or over). But suffering makes for some very funny jokes. So it's a pretty jolly ride back to town.

I step onto my front stoop at 2 AM. A lovely day, a lovely day with the dead!