I Moved To Oaxaca

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Oh, the bittersweet feeling of the last day of a three-day weekend.

Last night was the night of El Grito, or The Shout, celebrated in most every city in Mexico on the eve of Independence Day. It commemorates the event back in 1810 when Father Hidalgo shouted out to his countrymen, "Death to the gauchupines [aka, the Spanish]! Vive Mexico!" and of course while it precipitated Mexican independence from European rule, it did get Father Hidalgo executed.

Yesterday afternoon, after Internet and the bookstore, Greg and I walked down to the zocalo to check out the action. It was in full swing, so, in full fiesta mode, we ate our way through the crowd. I have a terrible weakness for fiestas, and especially fiesta food, as anyone who has seen me at the Del Mar Fair can attest. So this is some street food update. I tried, in approximate order of consumption:

-a mysterious, brown-colored squash drink with big chunks of pumpkiny squash in the cup. Pretty okay.
-a chili-and-lime elote. Not new, and now moved from street food into regular eatin'. Greg had one, too.
-a bag of fresh-made kettle chips with a little salt (I declined the salsa). Very, very good.
-a plate of fried plantains, also very good, and by this point my weekly fat consumption is exceeded.
-a plate of exquisite hotcakes* with jam. Good, but not as good as hotcakes with the works (jam and jimmies)
-Greg goes for a second plate of plantains, and I have a few more. Getting pretty full.
-two plates (I shared with Greg) of tacos, four pork and two beef, and a cooked onion. Very good.
-a cup of tejate, a drink described as a native Oaxacan Yoo Hoo. Also described as looking like wash water after a man is finished shaving. Both pretty accurate. Pretty good, especially the foam.

*For some reason, a majority of the hotcakes stands went by the name "Exquisite Hotcakes." Okay.

I also picked up a couple of wooden spatulas for kitchen use, as the apartment only came with metal ones and we have a non-stick surface pot.

We slept off the huge feed, and went back later that evening for the festivities. It was pretty damn packed in that square, lemme tell you. We tried to walk around and enjoy the sights but it was just too crowded, so we staked out a spot next to a tree where we could see the balcony at the governor's palace where the el grito would be reenacted. We hung out for about 40 minutes, then it started to rain. I think they hustled the ceremony as it started about 15 minutes earlier than planned, but the governor and all these dignitaries came out onto the balcony, shouted out "Vive [insert revolutionary hero's name here]!" and the crowd responded, "Vive [hero]!" Then "Vive Mexico!" three times, then a woman, Miss America but really a beauty contest winner dubbed the spirit of patriotism, came out and sang part of the national anthem, then a lot of confetti and horn blowing and some groovy fireworks overhead, then the crowd started to disperse -- well, the older folks and people with small children. Teens and young adults stayed to drink, smoke mota, and spray foam on each other to excess. Sodden, we walked up the street to meet Oscar at a nearby restaurant where, he said, a very good band was playing that evening. I changed clothes first as I was pretty wet and getting cold. The restaurant was beautiful, in a little courtyard with awnings over the open area, but still open to the weather. We had some very, very good steak ranchera (I split one with Greg, but even still full from my fiesta food binge, I could have eaten a whole one), some wine, and listened to this five-piece band play a type of music Oscar said is typical of Veracruz state. They had a harp and a bunch of stringed instruments ranging in size from ukelele to violin, but all played like guitars. Plus singing and dancing. They ended their set a little after 1am, and Oscar went up and chatted with them for awhile, then sang with them for a bit! (He does theatre, singing and some dance and such, for a profession.) Then we went home and to bed, just about 2am. A fun, fun day.

Oh, and I had so much information to share in the last post that I skipped a lot of details, so I went back and added to it.