Laura Anderson Barbata in corrobation with the Museo Textil de Oaxaca’s current show (8 Dec 2012 to 12 April 2013) is “Transcomunalidad: Intervenciones y colaboraciones con comunidades de Zanqueros”. Address: Hidalgo 917, Historico Centro, Oaxaca, Mexico.

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All photos by Alan L. Goodin


Capulalpam de Méndez: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Capulalpam de Méndez is a town and municipality in the Sierra Juárez in Oaxaca in south-western Mexico. It is part of the Ixtlán District in the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca region. The name “Capulalpam” in Nahuatl means “Land of the chokecherry tree” – a common type of tree in the area.[1]

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All photos by Alan L. Goodin, Copyright.

The municipality covers an area of 19.14 km² of rugged mountainous terrain. The town is at an altitude of 2,040 meters above sea level in a high mountain valley. The climate is predominantly cool and wet. Common flowers include Gladiolus, geraniums, roses, bougainvillea, tulips and calla lilies. Trees include ash, aguilar, ayacahuite, oak, and Madrano ocotal, as well as fruit-bearing walnuts, pears, quince, apple, peach, plum and chokecherry.[1]

Common birds are the eagle, hawk, crow, owl, dove, vulture, bat, swallow, sparrow, lark, quail, pheasant, picocanda and magpie. Wild animals include fox, coyote, badger, armadillo, wild boar, deer, tlacomixtle, opossum, cougar, skunk, jaguar, panther, rabbit and paca. The area also has lizards, coral snakes, rattlesnakes, tarantula and scorpion.[1]
As of 2005, the municipality had 326 households with a total population of 1,313 of whom 89 spoke an indigenous language. About 10% of the population is engaged in jewelry manufacture and another 10% work in a stone aggregate plant. Most others are engaged in agriculture.[1] The town has a beautiful 16th century church dedicated to St. Matthew. The church interior is lined by 15 large, ornate, hand-carved religious scenarios that date from the 16th and 17th centuries.[2]
In February 2008 Capulalpam was officially designated a “Pueblo Magico” (magical town), Oaxaca’s first and Mexico’s 33rd such town. The government also announced plans to construct a traditional healing center. The new designation and the healing center were expected to boost tourism.[2] The center, now open, employs traditional healers who provide medicinal plant therapy, massages, temazcal and herbal baths. The center has a herbal pharmacy and offers basic training courses about a great variety of medicinal plants.[3] The ‘temazcal’ is a type of sweat lodge that gives physical and spiritual purification using the four elements of fire, air, water and earth to give relief from the stresses of daily life. Participants may reach a level of consciousness similar to that of meditation.[4]

STAR OF INDIA-All Photos Copyright, Alan L. Goodin

All photos in this article, “Star of India” were taken at the ex-convento Cuilapan de Guerrerro, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Cuilapan de Guerrero: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cuilapan de Guerrero is a town and municipality located in the central valley region of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. It is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) to the south of the capital city of Oaxaca on the road leading to Villa de Zaachila, and is in the Centro District in the Valles Centrales region.[1]

Cuilapan, originally called Sahayuca,[2] has been a permanent settlement since at least 500 BCE. It developed into a city state but was absorbed by Monte Alban until between 600 and 900 CE. After this, Cuilapan returned to being an independent city-state, equal to a number of other important city states in the area.[3] After the Spanish conquest, Cuilapan had a population of over 40,000 people with formidable social, economic and cultural institutions.[4][5] For this reason, a major monastery dedicated to James the apostle was established there in the 1550s in order to evangelize the Mixtec and Zapotec populations.[2] However, the area underwent decline of its native population in the 16th and early 17th century[6] and the extravagant monastery complex would later deteriorate in the 19th century.[7] Today, the town is quiet place with a fraction of its former population and prestige.[4][5] The ruins of the monastery complex remain mostly as a national monument administered by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.[2]

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HIERVE EL AGUA (Spanish for “the water boils) All photos by Alan Goodin

Hierve el Agua: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hierve el Agua (Spanish for “the water boils”) is a set of natural rock formations in the Mexican state of Oaxaca that look like waterfalls. The site is located about 70 km east of Oaxaca city (a 2 hour drive from the Centro), past Mitla,[1] in the municipality of San Lorenzo Albarradas, with a narrow, winding unpaved road leading to the site (There is a new highway now, cutting 20 minutes off the drive). The site consists of two rock shelves or cliffs which rise between fifty and ninety metres from the valley below, from which extend nearly white rock formations which look like waterfalls. These formations are created by fresh water springs, whose water is over-saturated with calcium carbonate and other minerals. As the water scurries over the cliffs, the excess minerals are deposited, much in the same manner that stalactites are formed in caves. One of the cliffs, called the “cascada chica” (small waterfall) or the Amphitheatre, contains two large artificial pools for swimming as well as a number of small natural pools.[3][4] One of the artificial pools is very near the edge of the cliff.[1]

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The site is located in a very isolated region with rough terrain, dominated principally by holm oak forest, cactus and other semi desert vegetation.[2][3][4] The “waterfalls” or rock formations are on cliffs of mountains that rise abruptly from the narrow valley floor below.[5] It is located in ethnic Mixe territory,[3] with the two closest and most populous communities being San Lorenzo Albarradas and San Isidro Roaguia with populations of 1403 and 320 respectively (2005).[6][7] The springs that produce the rock formations are one of the few water sources in the area.[3]
“Waterfall” rock formations and springs
Rock formation as it “goes over” the cliff at the Amphitheater
The site consist of two waterfall-like rock formations which have been formed over thousands of years.[4] Both cliffs rise over fifty meters from the valley floor,[8] with one rock formation reaching down twelve metres and the other reaching down thirty metres.[1] The twelve foot one is called “cascada chica” (small waterfall) and “flows” off a base which is about sixty metres wide. The other, “cascada grande” (large waterfall), extends down from a base with which is about ninety metres wide and eighty metres above the valley floor.[3]
Rock formations of Hierve el Agua from the west and landscape
The rock formations are often described as “cascadas de sal” (salt waterfalls), “cascadas petrificadas” (petrified waterfalls)[2] and “cascadas pétreas” (rock waterfalls) .[6] The falls are formed by relatively small amounts of water which is oversaturated with calcium carbonate and comes to the surface through cracks or figures on the mountainside. The water has a temperature of 22 to 27C. As the water runs down the rock face, it forms large stalactites similar to those found in caves. The flow of water from the spring varies significantly between the dry and rainy seasons.[2][9] 95% of the surface rock formations are of calcium carbonate; however, lower layers of both rock and water currents are little known as they are sealed by the above layers. The calcium carbonate gives the formations a white or near white appearance, but other minerals that can be present in the water, such as silver, barium and iron can also be found and determines the color of a particular stalactite. The calcium carbonate in the water is due to rainwater which passes underground. First it absorbs carbon dioxide, and forms molecules of carbonic acid. This acid comes into contact with underground marble and partially dissolves creating calcium bicarbonate. When the water runs above ground, the excess minerals fall out.[3]
The waters, with their high mineral content, are reputed to have healing qualities.[3]

Natural and lower artificial pool
The more easily accessible and more often visited of the two waterfalls is the “cascada chica,” also called the Amphitheatre.[2][3] This cliff rises over fifty metres above the valley floor, where there is a natural platform about sixty meters wide.[3] This platform has four springs. The water from three of the four springs is captured by a number of small natural pools and two large artificial pools in which visitors can swim. The lower of the two pools is very close to the cliff edge and was built in 2007.[1] In these pools, the water appears a turquoise green due to the mineral concentration.[1][2] The fourth spring is located closest to the edge and responsible for most of the waterfall rock formation.[1][2] Two of the four springs on the Amphitheatre side rise from the level floor and appear to bubble up, which is the source of the name.[4] The bubbling action of these and some other springs is thought to occur due to construction of underground water currents.[3] This bubbling action leads to the name of the area, Hierve el Agua (the water boils). Water constantly flows out of the springs and the process of depositing the calcium carbonate is ongoing, which can be seen on the walls of the artificial pools.[2]
Trails lead from the cascada chica to the cascada grande, the valley floor and other areas in the vicinity.[1] The cascada grande is just to the south of the cascada chica and easily visible from it. This waterfall rock formation is more vertical than the cascada chica.[4] Similarly, it is a rock shelf from which flows mineral laden water over the side. This self is ninety metres above the valley floor, eighty metres wide with the waterfall extending down for about thirty metres. This self does not have artificial pools.[3]
Ancient canals
The area is also of archeological interest because of the extensive system of irrigation and terraces built by the Zapotecs as many as 2,500 years ago.[1] It was also most likely a sacred site to the ancient peoples of the Oaxaca valley.[8] The canals are part of an irrigation system which was created more than 2,500 years ago, most of which extend from the Amphitheatre side.[4] Researchers have studied the terraces and canals which have been cut into the sides of the mountains these cliffs are on and have concluded that there were an irrigation system, unique in Mexico.[8] Only vestiges of these irrigation canals remain; however, the archeological area has not been completely explored.[5] These irrigation canals are considered to be unique in Mesoamerica,[4][10] not only because irrigation was not common in pre-Hispanic Mexico but because they are the only example of lined irrigation canals.[11] It is not known why canal lining does not appear outside of the Hierve el Agua area, and here the lining develops naturally. While seepage and bank erosion were indeed problems with irrigation farming in other parts of Mesoamerica, the nearest example of anything similar is with the Hohokam of southern Arizona in 650 C.E.[11]

The tourist attraction

Part of Turis Yu’u
In addition to the artificial pools on the Amphitheatre side, a number of other services have been built for visitors such as food stands, small markets, cabins and a regular swimming pool.[4] The cabin area, called “Turis Yu’u,” with its pool was built in the 1990s and offer areas to change clothes, shower, eat in an open air restaurant and for overnight stays although the accommodations are very basic.[1][3][4][12] This complex, as well as many of the other stalls are owned by residents of the Roeguia community.[10] However, despite the development, the nearby communities of San Lorenza Albarradas and San Isidro Roaguia still suffer from poverty. One reason for this is that visitors are charged between fifty and sixty pesos each by the state of Oaxaca to enter the site. Entrance fees can bring in anywhere from $1000 to $5000 pesos per day depending on the season. Another is that there is a dispute between the two nearby communities as to who should administer it. Disputes over administration and income led to the closing of the site between 2005 and 2007. Since then, promises by state officials were made to invest the money earned at the site to raising living standards in the area, but residents claim that this has never happened. The disputes have also lead to tourists being charged twice to access the site, once on the road and once at the entrance to the park.


Photo by Alan Goodin

Photo by Alan Goodin

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Country
by Linda Martin

Several years ago Linda Martin started an interesting and amusing project about what ex-pats brought, missed, wished they could obtain, etc., etc. when they moved to Oaxaca. Questionaires were handed out. Below are some of her questions and the answers she got to them.
What did you bring to Oaxaca of sentimental value?
Liz Bell answered, “My children.” Some brought a handful of photos of dead relatives for their Day of the Dead altars. Jae Warren brought the complete works of Nabakov, her meditation pillow, two big stuffed antique Chinese dolls and a set of paper dolls called Jill and Bill like the ones she had had when she was 7 or 8 that she had recently bought on E Bay. One brought a decorative broken tile she pilfered once from a junk heap next to a monastery on a Greek island.

What did you bring of practical value?
Joan Harmon listed kitchen stuff, knives, pots and pans and her favorite measuring spoons. Dave Rooney listed Swiss Army knife, water colors, my best attitude, my sense of adventure, my love of meeting new people, and most importantly, my adaptability.

What did you sell or give away that you now miss?
Paul Stanley answered “Nothing.” One missed her washer and dryer which were more costly to replace here. Jae Warren misses her vintage Martini shaker with matching glasses and stirrers, her chefs’ knives and rice cooker. Patty Jungk misses her books.

What did you ship here but then never use?
One woman wrote, “My husband.” Another: My winter coat. Many declared “Nothing.”

What do you ask friends to bring you from abroad?
Topping the list was Earl Gray Tea, moisturizers and products from the Body Shop and crossword puzzle books. Jae Warren asks for plastic lemons full of real lemon juice, chili powder, tahini and ingredients for Indian, Chinese and Japanese food. Also pined for were tootsie rolls and mail ordered underpants, shoes and catnip. Some salivate over the arrival of requested eletronic gagets.

What did you buy here to replace things you gave up
and how did the prices compare?
Rustic furniture is cheaper here. Knives are cheaper but not as good. A TV was 200 USD more. Beds were cheaper by about $200. Small appliances and a washing machine cost much more here. One couple replaced the TV, CD player and some furniture. The replacement cost was less than the cost to ship it. Don Jungk wrote, “We set aside a few thousand dollars to replace things. By far the most difficult to replace was the language. We went to Spanish school until the budget money was used up.”

When outside Mexico, what do you bring back?
Roberta Christie answered: CDs and DVDs, of opera, mostly. I miss access to live performances.” Of course that was written in 2008. Now we have Live from the Met on high definition big screen at the Opera House.

What kitchen gadgets or clothes or drug store items could you not find here?
Ibuprophin in quart jars. A decent pepper grinder that does not break. Bill Pumphrey rememered when he got here in 2002 that there were many things he could not find here. “But everyday I see a wider selection of goods. There is not anything for the house which I cannot find here now, although I may have to go to Puebla to Costco”.

How did you ship your things to Mexico?
What was the cost?
Many expats never shipped. Just brought down things in suitcases on various trips. Paul and Janet Stanley brought only what fit in their car. They shipped nothing. They furnished their charming Oaxaca home with all things Mexican. On the other end of the scale, Bill and Billy paid $6000 US to ship all their possessions here. Bill’s dream house of glass walls and steel beams, new to Oaxaca builders, never became habitable. The whole rainy season was spent mopping up puddles under the glass walls, and watching birds fly into the unfamiliar glass walls and kill themselves. Billy had to wear sunglasses in her own living room to cut the glare. Before long, Bill’s health required they move to sea level, and again, thousands of dollars was spent shipping things back to the States. Not all expat’s dreams come true.

What do new friends in Mexico want to see from your past? Old famiy photos? Momentos from your career? Perhaps your bank balance?
An almost unanimous answer to this was “Nothing.” Roberta Christie saw this as a good thing. “People judge you on what you are now, not what you might have been, your positon, or past status.” One aging gringa said her younger Zapotec lover would periodically ask to see photos of her in her prime.

What do you look forward to the most when you visit the States or Canada?
Joan Harmon answered, “Shopping, visiting friends, and family, not in that order (well, maybe in that order). Gloria Asbel looks forward to flushing toilet paper and using tap water. David Rom listed scenery. Dave Rooney: seeing his grandson. And one confessed what she looks forward to the most is “coming back to Oaxaca.”

What aspects of the way of life in your home country are you glad to leave behind?
Although this quetionaire has focused mainly on things—buying, shipping, and missing things, most expats are thrilled to leave the enormous consumption. Geri Anderson wrote, “Everybody in the U.S. seems to need to buy, buy, buy.” Jae Warren gladly left the retail therapy she was falling into. David Romm left the yuppie money culture. Roberta Christie wrote, “Here non-accumulation is more the norm, even among most ex-pats that I know.” Bill Pumphrey was glad to leave the stress, high cost of living, politics, extreme seasons, and American superiority behind. Joan Harmon listed “the hustle and bustle, NY metro area, old friends (they were getting a little boring), work, and weather, for sure.” Harsh winters was reason enough for many to come South. Don Jungk remembers people who were angry and rushed all the time. And one listed “Loneliness. I had to phone my best friend a week in advance and make an appointment to hang out.”

What do you like about living in Oaxaca?
Jae Warren said, “The pace. It suits me. I thrive on manana time”. Many appreciated not needing a car, thriving on being able to walk everywhere. Climate was tops for many. And the people. Many have friendships with Zapotec and Mixtes and find them very kind and loveable. Others love the arts and all the cultural events going on. The festive street life. The music in the Zocalo. Many love living in a restored Colonial City. “It’s like going back in time. And because earthquakes prohibit them from building sky scrapers, from my porch I can see the sun setting gorgeously behind Monte Alban.” One expat mentioned the cultural differences, the fun of figuring out where to find things, the new friends—gringos and Mexicanos alike. This was the closest anyone came to saying “adventure”.
Perhaps the most famous expat to have ever stayed in Oaxaca was Malcolm Lowry. He stayed for long periods of time in room 40 of the Hotel Francia on the 20th of November. Paid for by his rich daddy, and only half a block from the Farolito Bar, where he did his two favorite things: drink and write. His best seller, Under the Volcano, was made into a movie starring Albert Finney as the Brit who came to Oaxaca and drank himself to death on Day of the Dead. Ten years later, back in England, Malcolm died at the age of 47. On the coroner’s report: “Death by Misadventure.”
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