I Moved To Oaxaca

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Hope everybody doesn't mind the random-note nature of my entries lately, because that's all I've got for today.

When I realized Greg hadn't ever seen Bowling For Columbine, I made plans to take him this weekend. And in the process of trying to figure out my geewhiz phone with features I can't use because 1) anyone I might call does not have a SMS-capable phone, or 2) Telcel, the local provider, does not in fact provide, I did discover that the browser works, and that I can check movie times. We saw Masacre this morning. I'm not surprised they changed the title -- how to explain to people what Bowling For Columbine means? There were only three people in the theater to watch it, and only two of us laughing. Which was two better than the last movie I saw, In America, here called Tierra de Sueño (Land of Dreams). I caught that one at Multimax, and walked into the theater 10 minutes early (I thought) but they'd already started the film. Damn, I thought, they got to America awfully quickly. Guess I didn't miss too much exposition. My watch was running on time, the theater was not; I realized I was watching the last ten minutes of the movie. Good thing it wasn't a surprise ending.

Earlier in the week, when we went over to Osvelia's to make decisions on whether we would indeed move in, and what furniture she might leave behind. She was there with her son and daughter-in-law, packing boxes, and Dawn, a woman from Canada she introduced as her friend. In the midst of our chatting we made plans to get together with Dawn after school on Saturday and show her around the city. Proved to be a typical Oaxaca encounter: Dawn said she'd come to Oaxaca on a lark (she'd been in Baja on a cob construction project), wandered into Osvelia's shop on a lark, got to chatting with Osvelia who promptly invited her to stay at her house. Maybe it's not Oaxaca, maybe it's just Osvelia!

Anyway, Dawn wanted to see the basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Solitude At The Foot Of The Cross, one of Oaxaca's three Marys, so we strolled down to see it. It's not an especially big church as Oaxacan churches go, but it's also old (late 17th century). We got an ice cream from the collection of vendors in front of the church -- I don't quite know what that's about -- then took a quick look through the church which, as typical, contained real live worshippers. Then we went into the little museum. At first it reminded me of an old lady's house -- a really religious old lady. Piles of seashells -- who knows? -- mannequins, old paintings, stained glass. But as we looked it got cooler. The designs in the big banners were made with milagros, those little metal amulets Catholics use to pray for things. And the stained glass triptych explained the story of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, mostly: guys taking boxes of relics somewhere, one of the donkeys gets tired and lies down, they open the box it was carrying and find extra relics nobody packed, so instead of continuing on they stayed in Oaxaca and said okay, now Soledad Mary is your patron. And then we saw that what at first looked like a comic-book depiction of the miracles of Soledad Mary were in fact devotional plaques expressing people's thanks for divine intervention. The plaques at eye level, mostly on tin, were from the 19th century, and ranged from thanks about marriages, repaired homes, surgeries survived, repelling marauders -- we saw one from the early part of the 20th century that was a photo in thanks for surviving a truck accident. Higher up on the wall the plaques got harder to read, and while we couldn't make out any dates, the clothes people were wearing were really old-fashioned, and the interventions were for things like surviving pirates, shipwrecks, and earthquakes. Whoa! I expect some were from shortly after the church was built. We had lots of fun trying to decipher the words of thanks and reconstruct stories from the pictures.

After that, we wandered down to the zocalo, where I got a pineapple snow cone and, after chowing down, we went into the cathedral. We were experiencing church overload, so as an antidote we walked up Alcala to our favorite mariachi bar and had beers-n-botanas. They recognize us, and we always get the same guy as our waiter. But I think he's in challenge mode: last time it was pig-head tacos, this time I thought he said "fried chicken" and I'm sure he did, but I didn't catch the Spanish word for "gizzards." But they actually made pretty good tacos. And it was nice to show off our little corner of Oaxaca to somebody new.


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