Wednesday, January 07, 2015
we three kings of oaxaca are
Yesterday was Three Kings Day in Mexico. The traditional day for gift-giving.
But it also gave these three wanderers a theme for the day. Our recent zigzags give the impression we are avoiding the deadly drones of Herod in his White House.
After initially abandoning Oaxaca as our target, yesterday morning we decided it was back on the menu, After all, where better to celebrate Three Kings Day than in a city where the country's Spanish tradition lies lightly on a mainly Indian culture?
At least that is what I thought. But before we would arrive at Oaxaca, we drove for five hours on one of the most scenic, but winding, roads I have ever experienced.
Every few minutes, the entire ecological system would change around us. From lakes to desert to majestic mountains. Perhaps my favorite were the cactus-strewn hills. Where everything conspired to create the impression of a landscape rising into the air. As if a Magritte painting had escaped its frame.
One of the joys of driving Mexico's two-lane highways is the ability to fully immerse oneself in the landscape. The downside is that trucks can slow progress almost to a standstill on some rather steep grades.
But, I guess, it affords another opportunity to slow down and enjoy the surroundings.
When we pulled into Oaxaca, we once again prove our spontaneity skills by nabbing reasonably-priced rooms. We were then off to the city square to help Oaxaca celebrate Three Kings Day. I did it with a hot dog (that tasted uneasily like a Vienna sausage) wrapped in bacon and served with jalapeños and onions. Actually, two hot dogs.
Others were not so easily pleased. They preferred being photographed with the three kings, and, in true Mexican style, Marilyn Monroe and what looked to be a partially-melted Frosty.
For others, it was a quick mass at the cathedral before digging into a large slice of three king cake and a paper cup of Oxxo coffee.
When we entered the square, we could hear what sounded like a rather exotic xylophone playing a tune that could have been the soundtrack for a Fellini film. It turned out to be an all-wood folk marimba.
And the two guys playing it could really play. They were good enough for the three of us to stand there listening through a couple of songs. After my experiences in Melaque, I am usually surprised that there are some very talented musicians who attempt to make their living on the street.
Oaxaca was on my long list of cities that interested me for retirement. I struck it after an incident in 2006. A teacher strike led to violence by the police and an ultimate take-over of the city by people claiming to represent the interests of "the people." The occupation of the town was nasty enough that I did not want to set up house there.
The square is once again occupied. This time by tent-dwellers in support of the 43 "missing students" from the Rural Teachers' College of Ayotzinapa.
Because it was late, I did not talk to any of the occupiers. I will try to do that during the two days we are here.
After a week at the beach, our arrival in the highlands is refreshing. Most people are wrapped up in sweaters and coats as if we were about to be blessed with a Bing Crosby dream come true. For me, it has been absolutely invigorating to sleep somewhere without a fan.
Maybe that is the gift the three kings brought me yesterday. An interesting town. And a comfortable evening.