So there are places which hold objective beauty but they are still easy to pass through. And then there are the places where you plan to stay a few nights, but man they get you and you can’t seem to be able to leave. Welcome to Oaxaca.
It was mere coincidence I ended up here at this time. I had visited the Frida Kahlo museum the day before and met there three lovely women from the state Veracrutz, while I waited in the seemingly endless line. They told me about this festival going on in Oaxaca at the moment, called Guelaguetza. It sounded amazing, and would go on for another two weeks. This suited me, as my plan was to travel to Puebla and go slowly south. Yet the next day I stood at the busstation and somehow spontaniously chnaged my mind,next thing I knew, was me sitting in the bus to Oaxaca. It was luck and good timing as the buses had just started to serve this road again. For one whole month teachers protest had been blocking all roads to and from Oaxaca. Teacher of the southern states Oaxaca and Chiapas have been off school since May, protesting against gouvernemts efforts to reform the desolate public education system. Changes include evaluating teachers and creating a competetive enviroment for open positions. Most of the uninvolved people and students used to claime a nutral position on the matter, but recent efforts of the police to clear the roads violently: causing the death of nine people, let support for the teachers grow.
Maria sits beside me in the bus, she explains me that she understands the teachers but their protest are an economic desaster for her and her family. She is a weaver of traditional tapistry, like her grandmother and great-grandmother. The lack of tourists put them in struggle to make a living. Maria is tiny and incredible warm. Her first language is Zapolteca, she is a decent of one of the many pre-columbian populations of Mexico. Due to few remaining road blocks, our trip takes eleven, instead of six hours. I find myself in Oaxaca at eleven o’ clock at night, with no secure taxi in sight and am quite clueless on how to get out of that situation. Then Maria appears again, like the saint the was named after, weaving out of the car of a friend who has come to pick her up. She insists I come with them, wanting to make sure I get to my hostel safe. I am very grateful!
The Guelageutza features a couple of side events, one of them being the Mezcal festival. Mezcal is a Liquor brewed from the Agave cactus, like its more famous brother Tequilla. Wheras Teauilla is brewed in other regions, from the blue Agave only, Mezcal comes in many different types, brewed from other types of Agave. Somehow Alice and Luke from the UK and me got into the sold out festival, half accidentally walking in through an exit. This must be celebrated with free samples! Mezcal is strong stuff, it only takes a few samples to be in a very joyful mood, to say the least. We chat to a group of Mexicans which challenge us to drink Mezcal from chillie peppers, decorated at the edge with even more chillie powder. Viva Mexico, I feel like my throat and internal organs are on fire. The bottom of the chillie holds a worm, which comes from the Agave and gives certain types of Mezcal its flavour. I pass on the worm but try some of the grasshoppers. They are here, in this region eaten as a snack, friend and served with chillie, onions and garlic. They taste is not so bad, but the thought of legs being stuck between my teeth horrifies me a bit. The night blurres into the next morning. We wake up with a terrible head ache but we had made an awesome new friend. Gary will show us in the next days proudly his home and makes sure we get a authentic Guelaguetza experience. Stay posted for the next entry!