I Moved To Oaxaca

Monday, October 04, 2004

As Sunday Drives go, it didn't have much in the way of excitement: we didn't get lost, we never left paved roads, we ate no strange food or encounted any strange languages. We just drove out to Teposcolula to see the old church, community museum, and other odds and ends. Because after several trips to the area, we had managed not to see any of that.

We did try to spice it up by taking Hwy 190, the free road, the whole way there instead of taking the cuota to Nochixtlan. Which is what we've always done. And what we will go back to doing, because like most of Oaxaca's free roads the stretch of Hwy 190 between Oax-town and Nochixtlan is slow, twisty, and liable to have sudden washouts, landslides, and gargantuan potholes. Plus, it was raining so we didn't even have a view.

Poor us.

But I managed not to throw up, and G-man managed not to send us careening down the mountainside. And once we got to Nochixtlan the road was familiar and relatively fine. We took the turn to see if our random-encounter Tony or Ron had done any trenching or surveying work at Pueblo Viejo; nada. We drove into town looking for lunch, because driving the free road took forever and we were starving. We ate at the Moon guide-recommended Restaurant Eunice: chewy little beef steaks with gravy, beans, salad, and tortillas.

Now, the subject came up last week of just what the Spanish word for gravy is; our dictionaries all say salsa, which doesn't sound right and only puzzled my students. As did my explanation of "it's meat juice." So Greg asked the woman serving the food, who said it's jugito, or "little juice." So I was on the right track after all!

We ate then strolled through the plaza to the Casa de Cultura, which in this town also doubles as the community museum. A very fat, very bored-looking guard told us it was closed. Darn. Okay, down to the church, a big ol' 16th-century affair. It was open, and free on Sundays, so maybe it evened out. The church was interesting, but just, with some old paintings of the life of Santo Domingo, and some life-size wood statues of churchmen or saints or something. I didn't see any Pre-hispanic carved stones incorporated into the church as sometimes happens; too bad. Then we set off looking for the Casa de la Cacica.

Now, a cacique (or cacica for the ladies) is/was the local village leader back in Pre-hispanic times. And if you were a particularly good cacique your village would venerate your remains so you would intercede with the gods on behalf of the village. So back when the Spanish came through the area, they built the local cacica a fancy stone house to live in, hoping she'd settle there and her people would, too. I don't know if they ever did, or what happened to the cacica, but her house is still in town, and we wanted to see it. And it only took us asking directions, oh, three or four times in this tiny town to find it.

Well! They are renovating it, so there wasn't much to see other than your typical construction site stuff. But it's turning out to be a handsome-looking building, and I'm actually excited to see it when it's finished. It should make a kick-ass community museum, and who knows? Maybe it'll even be open Sundays.


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