After two nights in Juchitan, the Caravan members woke before dawn yesterday to clean up the garbage at their encampment and then headed north at 6am. They had originally planned to take the route to Oaxaca City but at the last minute decided to trek through Veracruz — less mountainous but more dangerous because of the cartel criminals. Some will hop the freight train, also dangerous.
We arrived yesterday in the town of Juchitan de Zaragoza along the coast in Oaxaca where the Caravan was scheduled to arrive this morning. We had heard about Juchitan, known for its matriarchal social structure and large community of gay and transgender residents. Turns out there is plenty more here that makes this community special.
My visit to Oaxaca, Mexico, has been fun and interesting in all of the ways I expected. But it has also involved a mystery that has connected me to a lot of people in ways I could never have expected. The mystery begins and ends with a water color painting called “El Jaguar.”
The state of Oaxaca has many folk art traditions, many centered in the small pueblos (villages) outside the city. Learning about local folk art is a great way to learn a little bit about local communities so this week I visited a few of them. Each village I visited seemed passionate about its art and happy to have visitors. Continue reading
The first time I visited Oaxaca almost 30 years ago, a friend asked me why I would choose Oaxaca for a vacation because “it’s the Fresno of Mexico.” I’m Armenian so it wasn’t a good choice of insult but the cities are similar in a few ways. Both have a lot of poor people and strong connections to the ethnically diverse rural communities outside their city centers. But only one has world-class colonial architecture, a prominent arts community, and a spirit of political activism. Also a lot of mole and mezcal. Continue reading