We wrote in our notebooks on the hotel terrace. A metal door rolled up its tracks announcing the shop was open for business. A car drove away from an underground garage onto a narrow street. D and I drank another cup of coffee. We studied a map of Oaxaca City, memorized our walking route to the zocalo (the city’s center), packed our cameras, water, and guidebooks, and left the hotel.
Oaxaca City, Mexico: Part 2
November 1, 2008 | Filed Under: Short Stories & Photographs
Scenes from our walk:
Several women sat beneath an awning shaded from the rising lemon light. Their hands moved in rhythmic precision like a wound pocket watch. Flour, water, and salt tins were opened and closed. One woman prepared the dough, folding it into a flattened disc between her small hands. She passed the disc to another woman seated in front of a heated stone where the dough was placed. The women sold fresh tortillas layered with Queso Oaxaca (semi-hard cheese that is stretched and rolled into a ball like yarn), frijoles negro, and crescents of raw onions wrapped in waxed paper to neighborhood pedestrians.
We walked to Mercado Juarez, an indoor market located southwest of the zocalo. Vendors sold mostly food, meat, eggs, cheese, produce, along with some crafts, flowers, and leather goods. The market smelled of blood, yet sparkled clean. Chickens hung from the ceilings by their featherless necks. Spiced beef was pounded thin and wrapped in string. Eggs sat in baskets on the shelves. Queso Oaxaca was pulled from the chilled display cases. Avocados, bananas, limes, and chocolate blocks were sold. Next to the entrance, a woman squeezed rice pulp into a large bowl and poured a glass of horchata (cinnamon flavored rice and almond milk).
A row of shop owners fastidiously clean their storefronts in unison. Each one tosses a full bucket of soapy water onto their sidewalk section and anyone who happens to be walking by, even potential shoppers. The gray water is then swept into the street, forming a small stream along the curb.
University students set up sketch pads in front of a stone church and gathered on or near the crumbling perimeter wall. They lifted their pencils to the church in vertical and horizontal angles and sketched quick strokes on their paper. Color bled into the penciled lines. They blotted the watercolors with cloth squares.
Inside a barber shop lined with mirrors, a man got a haircut. I stopped and pointed my camera toward the shop. The barber began waving his arms and shouting at me to stop. No photos.
Three women balanced baskets filled with bread and vegetables on their heads as they walked in a line down the sidewalk.
In front of a row of shops, women embroidered orange, red, and yellow flowers on cotton dresses (huipiles).