Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oaxaca Reads My Mind

Last July, when we came back to Oaxaca after visiting family in the United States, my adopted city felt like an acquaintance who you run into on the street and to whom you can't think up anything to say. This time, returning to Oaxaca feels like arriving at the place I chose.

My first day back, the city keeps reading my mind..It began this morning, when the house was just a mess from construction workers. I called Angelina to babysit (because we all needed a break from each other after 8 days on the road together) and she told me her sister-in-law could come as well to clean up the place. Shortly after, they arrived with the construction worker who set to finishing our rooftop garden with palapa roof.

This left me the chance to work, so I packed up my laptop and walked to the center of town. There lies Cafe Brujula, which I believe translates to the witchcraft cafe, home to what may be Oaxaca's only chai. Unfortunately, it is also carb heaven/carb hell depending on your perspective. I found myself desperately wishing for a fruit plate to offset my weakness for their bagels and such. There appeared on the corner, across from the cafe, a woman selling a tray of mixed fresh fruit which I got with the usual lime and chili.

Inside, the wireless connection was great, an art show was on and the chai perfect. I set to writing. After a couple hours, I headed out to Llano Park to meet Steve, Max and Geni, but I saw a new gallery on Calle Juarez, so I popped in. While I was looking at the paintings, the gallery curator said, “You know there's an installation.” This is one of my all-time favorite phrases. Jenny, Megan and I often traveled hours to hit art installations, like the funky junky Michael McMillan environments made of trash and old belongings, or the room-sized Voudoun altar at Baltimore's Museum of Visionary Art.

This one was modest in comparison. It was set in a series of adobe mud rooms, in the dark. As you walked through, slowly these shrine box apparitions of wax embedded with remnants glowed to life and then faded, while some sort of melancholy music played. I became overcome with my great fortune and decided to feel a little sad about how lucky the morning had been, like my experience of Oaxaca is a work of heartbreaking beauty.


Trina said...

The first paragraph of this entry could be the first paragraph of a short story or novel. It is intriguing.

Anonymous said...


Just to comment that "Brújula" means compass. The word for witchcraft is "brujería".