Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Plaza de la Danza, Jardín Sócrates y Templo de San José

The plaza de la danza and jardín Sócrates are at the foot of Fort Hill, formerly called La Soledad or Calvary.  They are part of the La Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, and Temple and former Convent of San José.  The space is divided into three distinct areas: the atrium of La Soledad, the plaza de la danza and jardín Sócrates.

La plaza de la danza during the feast of La Soledad
The plaza de la danza was built in 1959 by Sr. Eduardo Vasconcelos for the aesthetic education and recreation of the people. It is at the highest level of the three plazas.  Here Oaxaca holds cultural events hosts performances by artists, orchestras and school folk dance events.  It also gets used for an occasional fireworks display, the feast for La Soledad which lasts more than a week, the police do occasional training here, and when otherwise not in use you can find skateboarders. The square is built entirely with stone blocks, taking advantage of the natural slope of the hill to make bleachers on the north side.  This plaza, since its inception, has been a beautiful setting where important folk events take place including the choreographic display the history of Lunes del Cerro that in the Zapotec language is known as the Bani Stui Gulal, representing antiquity from the pre-Hispanic, to the colonial, to the contemporary.

Luminaries being launched in the Plaza de la Danza in December 2010
The Jardín Sócrates is located below and to the southeast of the Plaza de la Danza and directly east of the atrium of La Soledad.  Walk out the door of the atrium and you are in the garden.  Formerly known as the plaza de la Soledad, it was converted into a public garden in 1881.  In 1981 the garden was remodeled, another green stone floor installed, electrical service provided along with public restrooms.  It’s only claim as a garden are several large trees providing shade.  As of today it has been undergoing a second remodeling with tile placed over the stone, newer electrical service, remodeled public restrooms, and the badly warn stairs covered in new green stone.  The work is ongoing.

Choose your flavor at one of the nieve vendors in the Jardín Sócrates.

In recent times it has been home to vendors of  "nieves oaxaqueñas" which are temporarily located on the sidewalk of Independencia.  Nieves are similar to Italian granitas.  They may be made with or without milk but not with cream or egg, unlike an Italian gelato.  The fruit sugar water mixture is put into a metal cylinder, then placed in an ice bath and given an occasional spin by hand.  The frozen portion on the sides of the cylinder are scraped off and served.  No mechanical moving parts involved.  Here is your chance move out of your comfort zone and try tuna (the fruit of the prickly pear cactus), guayaba, zapote negro, guanabana, zarzamora, hierba buena (leaves of mentha spicata) or mezcal.  If you want two flavors use ‘con’ not ‘y’, use ‘y’ and you just placed two orders with one flavor each.

The Temple of San Jose with the bleachers of the plaza de la Danza in front
The Jesuits founded the temple of San Jose in 1559.  It collapsed completely in 1696 due to several earthquakes and was rebuilt in 1728. The convent was completed and occupied in 1744 by the nuns of St. Joseph.  The church, small in size, has little ornamentation inside.  In 1893, Archbishop Gillow acquired the ex-convent and it became a home for orphans and the elderly abandoned after the revolution. It is currently under the administration of the Autonomous University "Benito Juárez" de Oaxaca and has been home to the School of Fine Arts since 1950.  The temple is east of the plaza de la danza.

A rare sight in Oaxaca, a new Maserati waiting to pick up a girl after her quince años 

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