I Moved To Oaxaca

Monday, November 08, 2004

Goodbye Oaxaca Roadtrip: Day 6 Sta. Catarina Juquila - Pte. Escondido

Oh, how refreshing! Our hotel room in Juquila, at the maze-like San Nicolas, had the best mattress we've slept on anywhere in Oaxaca. Sure, the pillows were bricks, but who cares! And at around 7500' in elevation, it was cool enough in the evening to need the blankets on the bed -- a welcome change after the sweltering coast.

We went back to the church the next morning to take some pictures, but as the inside was again full of worshippers (some approaching the altar on their knees) we really didn't want to start snapping photos, so we just got the exterior, then looked around at the tianguis.

It was pretty small, as Sunday had been the big tianguis day -- more on that in a minute. But we did see a pair of little Chatino ladies selling some embroidered blouses (perfect for the potato-shaped) and some embroidered cloth napkins and tablecloths (perfect for those with a home) ... and some of these local-style bolsas, a type we've seen only in the little Chatino section of Oaxaca. We asked the pair of ladies, How much for the bags? 150 pesos. Hmm, how about 125? Nope, 150. Your ultimate price, seƱora? 150 pesos.

Okay, if they're not gonna bargain, we could always try somewhere else, so we walked away. We went to internet. We got breakfast at the place we'd eaten the day before. We walked around town some more. Then we conferred. We both know one of the cardinal rules of Oaxaca is, If you see it and you want it, buy it then, 'cause there's no telling when if ever you'll find it next time. Like the New Zealand butter, here one day and gone the next. So we went back into the plaza in front of the church and eyed the scene. A few more vendors had set up, and it looked like a couple of them were selling bolsas. As we planned our course of action, I noticed that the older of the two original sellers noticed us and was smirking. Well! We'll show her, I thought. Then the younger of the two came over to us, and said, Still want the bags? So we walked over to her pile of stuff on the ground, only this time her elderly mother was there, too, and the old lady said, Bolsas are 170. I looked at the younger woman and said, Oh really, they've gone up? The woman quickly said, No, no, 150, so G and I each got one, and now we are really styling. (I'm glad we did, too, because of course once we left the plaza we saw nobody else selling them.)

We loaded up the car and drove a few miles outside of town to El Pedimento, an auxilliary Juquila shrine. Yes, she has two! Only at this one you can go up and touch her, pin milagros to her vestments, kiss and wipe your brow with her dress like I saw several people do. The ceiling of her little chapel was covered with murals explaining her story, there was a great view of the valley and a huge pile of extra offerings out back, banners and crosses and mementos tied to the trees surrounding it. And people taking pictures and movies, so I joined in and took some photos of the place. Then while G worked his way through the dozens of roadside shacks selling Juquila recuerdos–souvenirs–I sat in the car with the cat. Most people who make the pilgrimage buy a picture of Juquila and fasten it to the grill of their car. We will, too; I just need to get some metal eyelets in order to tie her on. He also got a litle picture of her in a wood box with a red Christmas light and plug. Groovy.

Then we were off and back down that horrible highway. Good Christ. We blew off checking out San Juan Lachao Pueblo Viejo–the name of a town with ruins if I ever did hear–just to get away from Hwy 131. Down in San Gabriel Mixtepec, where the road was still bad but not quite so curvy, we took a detour because our books and maps indicated that the town of Santos Reyes Nopala, 7 miles down a dirt road, had carved stones in its plaza and possibly a community museum. We were ready for the improved driving conditions that a dirt road would bring. But surprise, surprise, the road was newly paved. And, as we approached the bridge into town, festooned with street lights. Another photo op for the governor, I'm sure.

So we drove into town and parked at the presidencia. We could see big carved stones embedded in the walls of the presidencia, and one of the bored cops standing around kindly unlocked the gate to the second floor for us so we could see all the stones. But no museum, so after photographing the stone at the entrance to town we drove back out to San Gabriel Mixtepec and, damn, back onto Hwy 131. Where I quickly got carsick.

G was sure we could make it to Jamiltepec, or even Pinotepa Nacional, but I mentioned Puerto Escondido as a possible stopping place for the evening. When he seemed unconvinced of the town's charms as a stopover–no ruins!–I increased the level of my whining until he gave in and headed to the hotel zone.

Well, the place was a lot bigger than I expected. Much bigger than Puerto Angel; more like a Pochutla. A foreign-tourist-infested Pochutla. We asked about prices at one hotel and were told 400. Whoa! Keep driving. But looking in our guidebook we feared that that would be the norm. So then we started looking not for American-friendly hotels, but local-style hotels. We pulled into a place called the Hotel D'Carlos, perfectly fine though a bit scruffy in the Mexican hotel sort of way, and got their last room for $250. But hey, it was right on the beach: walk out door to our room, across the lobby, across a small lot, and onto the sand, crowded with frolicking Mexican families playing in the water, and fishing boats, and buckets and palm-frond mats of fish.

We got dinner, also expensive by our standards, but tasty, did some too-expensive internet, then wandered back to the hotel. No ruins!


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