Tuesday, February 28, 2012

La Biznaga and La Gran Torta

La Biznaga

 The menu at La Biznaga offers a wide range of options.  You can make a meal from soup, salad, and appetizers or you can go the full dinner route.  They also offer a comida corrida.  Prices are reasonable, the setting comfortable, but don’t be in a hurry, service can be slow.  So while you wait they offer a full bar, mezcals, and Belgian and Mexican beers.  As an example of the salads picture a mound of spinach with grapefruit and tocion (Mexican bacon).  Soups include several standards and a few not so standard.  Two people can eat for less than 200 pesos or run a sizeable bill at the bar.  They have a website http://labiznaga.com.mx/ and are located at García Vigil 512. 

Gordita Rellena de Quesillo, Rajas y Flor de Calabaza
Zandunga Relleno de Platano y Mole de Guayabas

La Gran Torta

La Gran Torta offers a range of tortas, tacos, and pozole.  Pozole is a meat broth, usually pork or chicken with corn in the form of hominy.  To this you can expect a variety of meats, chicharrón (pork rinds), cabbage, radish, avocado, and salsa that you add to taste.  There are vegetarian versions and a lovely sardine pozole.  Tortas run the full range including a nice Cubana. Two people can eat for less than 200 pesos. La Gran Torta is located at Porfirio Díaz 208.

Torta Cubana
Pozole la espicial de la casa

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Museo de Arte Prehispánico Rufino Tamayo

On January 29th, 1974, the Museo de Arte Prehispánico Rufino Tamayo was inaugurated after Oaxacan painter Rufino Tamayo restored this handsome colonial house (located at Morelos 503 between Porfirio Diaz and Tinoco y Palacios ) and installed his pre-Columbian art collection.

Tamayo began collecting in 1948 on a trip by donkey around the State of Veracruz, where he saw ancient Olmec idols lying in streams and little girls dressing them up like dolls. He came back with six crates of immensely valuable pieces purchased for 20 to 100 pesos. Open daily except Tuesday from 10 am to 2 pm and 4 pm to 7 pm; Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm.

This exhibition includes works, articles and objects of the Gulf coastal cultures such as the Olmec, Totonac and Huasteca, in the Pacific states of Michoacan, Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit; groups in western Mexico as the Altiplano, Teotihuacan, Toltec and Aztec; also those from the south the Zapotec and Mixtec; and in southeastern Mexico articles belonging to the Maya.

The museum has 5 showrooms and houses approximately 1059 archaeological pieces, not all displayed. Each room is painted with different colors reflecting on the artistic taste of Tamayo.  The collections are not ordered according to their culture, rather classified them in different rooms generally according to their chronology. 

One of the purposes expressed by Rufino Tamayo for donating collection, was to prevent illegal trafficking and export of the same, at the same time and share this legacy with the people of Oaxaca and the general public.  Please visit my Picasa web album to view more of the collection.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Museo del Palacio

The central panel of a mural by Arturo García Bustos depicts events in the independent era.

The former State Capital Building was remodeled and opened on March 21, 2008 as the Museo del Palacio Espacio de la Diversidad. Still commonly called the Palacio de Gobierno or Governor’s Palace, in joint collaboration with UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), it hosts cultural activities, science exhibits, art exhibitions and entertainment. Its main façade, Doric in style and built from the green stone of Oaxaca, faces north, towards the Plaza de la Constitucion or Zocalo.

The interior is divided into three courtyards that have been covered with a tent roof to make it possible to use the space for exhibitions.  At the top of the main staircase there is an impressive mural painted in 1980 by the Mexican muralist Arturo García Bustos. The mural has three panels that depict historical and mythical events of Oaxaca City. The left wall expresses pre-Hispanic times, reflecting the customs and lifestyle of the Mixtec, Zapotec, and Mexica.  The right wall depicts the Spanish Conquest.  The central wall depicts events in the independent era including a picture of José Maria Morelos y Pavon, printing the first Oaxacan journal, "El Correo del Sur" [Southern Courier]. Other important Mexican heroes also appear here, such as: Benito Juárez, Margarita Maza, José Maria Morelos and Ricardo Flores Magon.

Under the stairwell you can find the world's largest Tlayuda, 3 meters across and made from 120 kilos of masa.

Likewise in the side stairs there is a second mural also painted by Arturo García Bustos in 1987 called Cosmogony of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca. It covers the dome and walls of the staircase for the east patio and represents the formation of the universe, from the mythical view of the Hispanic cultures of Oaxaca. The central mural portrays water, fertility of the soil and education. The mural on the right depicts the tree of life, a woman, naked from the waist up with her waist loom, a sorcerer or high priest, the huge Monte Albán Plaza, and a scribe painting some codex. The left mural shows daily life in the Isthmus, a day at a marketplace, as well as some Huave fishermen from San Mateo del Mar, with their nets and musical instruments. There is also a portrait of the Huautla de Jimenez area, represented by the goddess of the soil and two priestesses dressed in traditional Mazatec attire, known as a Huipil.

In another area you can find historical documents of the life and work of Benito Juarez. The space is also used for art exhibitions. Outside it continues to be a focal point for protests despite no longer being the seat of government.  For the past 18 months the people of San Juan Copala have been camped here in protest.  For an update of what the current protest is about go here:  Oaxaca's "Occupier" Refugees Face Roadblocks on the Way Home.  

For more pictures of the interior and art exhibits go to my Picasa web album.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

El día del amor y la amistad

Oaxaca has many language schools which have their own social networks.  Many provide activities to help integrate students with life in Oaxaca and provide additional opportunities to practice.  One school, Spanish Magic, celebrated Valentine's Day with a program of dance.  There are just a few photos here and more at my picasa web album.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Herencia de Moros - Alforjas, Alfombras, y Almohadas

Saddlebags, Rugs, and Pillows

A talega from ta'liqa, 'bag to hang'

From Alejandro de Ávila, curator Museo Textil de Oaxaca (MTO)

As Latin American peoples, we usually recognize we have three cultural roots: the native indigenous societies, the Iberian invaders, and the slaves expatriated from sub-Saharan Africa.  There is a fourth root of which we tend to ignorant, but which is revealed by our language as well as our material culture.  Castilian inherited several non-European words to designate weavings and garments, which we continue to wear, five hundred and twenty years after Isabella and Ferdinand conquered Granada. We refer to terms such as gabán (overcoat), from the Arabic qabā'; chaleco (vest), from the Turkish yalak, and tafetán (taffeta), from the Persian tāftè. Belonging to three different families, these three languages bear characteristic phonological traits that allow us to trace the provenience of lexical items origin borrowed into the old Spanish. The majority of them come from Arabic, which is part of the Afro-Asiatic language family, but we also encounter etymologies involving the Altaic family, to which Turkish belongs, as well as the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family, which includes Persian.

MTO's education director, Eric Chávez.
If we examine in detail the Castilian textile terminology which has Arabic background, we found a curious pattern: many of the words refer to tunics and capes to shield oneself from the sun, protective gear for beasts of burden, and bedding for travel. Let us look at some examples: jubón (tunic), a garment worn by men in Mexico comes from ŷubba; enjaezar (harness), which means ‘to decorate a horse’, derives from ŷahāz; albarda (saddle), the straw filled cushion that protects the backbone of an animal against the friction of the saddle, has varied but little from the original al-bara'a, and almadraque (bed), an old fashioned name for a thin mattress, comes from al-Muttrah. This vocabulary inherited by Spanish originated in the nomadic habits of pastoral societies of western Asia and northern Africa.

A pillow or almohadas, from al-mujadda
Once grains and herds were domesticated twelve thousand years ago, the Mediterranean Levant saw the emergence of a symbiosis between farmers and shepherds, where each sector developed its own technology according to its mode of subsistence. Alluvial soils along the rivers were worked by sedentary farmers, whereas the vast arid landscapes of the mid-latitudes became the habitat of wandering herders. The ecology of the region conditioned the mode of production and shaped their textile technology. Saddlebags (alforjas in Spanish, from the arabic al-jurŷa), double bags which allow the load to be balanced on the back of a animal, are a textile prototype designed for nomadic life. Ingeniously constructed ​​from a single web, they serve to transport the rider’s basic equipment easily and efficiently. Likewise, rugs (alfombras in Spanish, from al-jumra, 'palm mat') and pillows (Spanish almohadas, from al-mujadda 'point where the cheek is supported’) allow a person to sit or lie down comfortably on the floor of a portable dwelling, in the absence of chairs and beds, too bulky and heavy to travel with.

An almofrej or al-mufriš, a storage case.

Recreated in Spain during the Moorish occupation of the Middle Ages, saddlebags and pillows came to the Americas with the conquistadors and their animals, to evoke the peoples of the desert to this day. In this exhibition we show some Mexican and Peruvian examples of both kinds of textiles, together with their woolen equivalents from Central Asia and the Middle East. Today, Oaxacan and Guatemalan saddlebags are woven coarsely of agave, but some antique pieces of cotton (from al-qutn, another Arabic word), have been preserved, soft to the touch and carefully embellished, which echo their old world antecedents. We also display various versions of the talega (ta'liqa, 'bag to hang') and the almofrej (al-mufriš, 'storage case for the road bed'), vital luggage for herders in their endless journeys. Some examples, woven by women Baluchi, Shahsevan, Yünçü, and other nomadic groups of Persia and Anatolia show striking parallels in technique and structure with indigenous Mesoamerican pieces. The itinerant way of life described in several biblical passages, shared ancestrally by Arabs and Jews, favored the emergence of a rich and varied textile artistry, which would resonate across the Atlantic. In weaving links between two hemispheres, we dedicate this exhibit to Alfredo Harp Helú, founder and patron of this museum, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants who arrived in Oaxaca early in the last century and became fabric and clothing manufacturers.

Most of the pieces in the exhibit are from the 19th century.  For a better look at the exhibit please visit my picasa web album.  For the Museo Textil visit http://www.museotextildeoaxaca.org.mx/

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca

The open air chapel.

There are snake figures on the underside of the arch
Coixtlahuaca was originally founded in the classic period by chocholteca. Nahuatl was the language used throughout the Anahuac from the Classic period.  In Nahuatl, Coixtlahuaca means in the plain of the snakes.  Coixtlahuaca was an important commercial center in the Mixteca.  The market or tinguis performing in Coixtlahuaca had a great influence throughout the Mixteca region. In 1462, it was conquered by the Aztecs.  After the Spanish Conquest, the Dominicans arrived in the area and by 1545, the friar Francisco Marín built the open chapel, with a central arch and four sides, vestry and room for the choir.  Although there is unfortunately no longer the vault, the remains show us the knowledge and mastery of the techniques that were used to carve the stone and construct this chapel.

The main attraction is the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista Completed in 1576, it is of Renaissance style with rose windows, sculptures, and a main entrance with dozens of recesses. It also has a Baroque-style altarpiece (retablo).  On the side of the church facing the open chapel there is a rose window flanked by engraved attributes of the Passion of Christ in the indigenous style of sculpture.

The front of the temple has another beautifully decorated rosette and above a sculpture of the Holy Spirit within a rectangle surrounded by busts of four Dominican Saints. 
the church must have had two towers of which only one remains.  On the frieze delineated by cornices appears date of 1576, which may have been the year of the conclusion or the dedication of the temple.

The interior has a nave facing the east covered by a vault.  The altar, rebuilt in the seventeenth century, occupies the entire apse and has four floors with four niches, divided by pilasters of twenty compartments.  Unfortunately currently disassembled under a plastic tarp during restoration

In addition, there are two side altars, one dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary and the other to Our Lady of Atocha, the majority of works are of Andres de la Concha.

San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca is located northwest of Oaxaca City, 113 kilometers (70 miles), via highway 131-D bound for Mexico City. Driving time is approximately an hour and a half.
Much of the former convent has now been restored.  For more pictures which can be viewed in larger format please visit my picasa web album.