Phillip Smith

Mexico: Day Four, a journey to Oaxaca de Juarez

Occupy the fields

Monday morning. Sore throat. Start of the journey to Oaxaca de Juarez – my home for the coming months.

I gather my things, check out of the hotel, and get moving south.

On route, I meet two Americans, Nelly and Amber, they are coming from Durango and heading to Puerto Escondido. We exchange travel advice and recommendations and part ways.

Oaxaca, it seems, is really a small place: I run into Nelly and Amber again this same day, later in the evening, having dinner in Oaxaca’s historic Zocalo.

I make my way to the little apartment that my friend and colleague Dave has rented in La Cascada, in the hills just north of the Zocalo. It’s a bit hard to find on winding unmarked streets, but soon enough I see Dave’s red hair and I know I’m in the right place.

Without delay, Dave whisks me out the door and into the beautiful cobblestone streets of Oaxaca.

Our first stop is the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca to inquire about Spanish lessons. What at first appears to be a large compound from the outside, opens up into lush green gardens and shady outdoor patios. Students are scattered about, studying under a tree, taking salsa lessons, or perhaps catching a nap; it’s a little oasis of extranjeros in Oaxaca (probably not the only one). We meet Ryota, from Japan, who gives us the run-down and a tour. We stop by the kitchen where a class is learning to make Oaxacan food. Our Spanish is sufficient for today, but no doubt we’ll be back here soon to improve it.

Next, we make our way to the Zocalo, where we find a small restaurant with a patio. The Zocalo is filled with people – vendors, musicians, turistas, and so on – it provides no end of entertainment over a dinner that is various arrangements of corn tortilla, beans, and cheese.

Bellies full, we wander up to the Lobo Azul for a performance of “3000 mil mujeres” by a “forum theatre” group from Puebla. The performance explored the issues around the trafficking of women in Mexico. At the end, the performers ask the audience to take the place of one of the characters and to re-enact the scenes. One after another, audience members work through the scenes, and provide feedback to the performers. It’s an eye-opening experience.

Oaxaca Theatre

We wind up the evening in Xochimilco at a “despedida” (going away party) for Roberto, an linguist & activist who has been living and working in Oaxaca for the last six months but is soon to return to the US. Here I also meet the rest of Dave’s witty, smart, radical crew: Simon from Occupy Oakland, Aerin who works with The Berkana Institute and facilitates “The Art of Hosting” workshops, Jena (or Juanita) who is in Oaxaca doing research for her dissertation, Moravia who is here working with Witness for Peace, and also Yeyo and Ana. This lively bunch will no doubt be a recurring theme in my Oaxaca experience, and I’m grateful for that.

Alas, my sore throat is starting to feel like a cold, so I skip the generous and plentiful offers of Irish whiskey, which is always for the best as it has gotten me into trouble more than once, and head home exhausted and sober.

What a few days it has been. Sadly, the next several days are punctuated by a nasty head cold. Rather than bore myself by writing up my trip to the pharmacia to procure tissue and cold medicine, I’ll just pick up the story when it picks up again.

Hasta pronto.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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