Friday, March 8, 2019

Oaxaca and Tradition

I visited Oaxaca in November.  I was very nervous.  I had never been to Mexico before.  I don't speak Spanish. I was meeting a lady.

What I found there is hard to put into words; it has taken me some time to come up with the right words.

I found mole, of course, but more than that, I found families. I found businesses centered around families, and especially around grandmothers. Those were the distinctive ones, the ones the other businesses seemed to use as a model.

Capitalist intensity has broken the back of the family in America.  Cell phones exist in Oaxaca, but cell phone culture doesn't dominate.  Most transactions are in cash.  Families tend to live together.  The rush of daily city life somehow seems more humane and vehicle speeds are restricted by numerous speed bumps.  The people are poorer than the US, yet they seem richer and retain more of their dignity.  Zapotec and Mixtec indigenous culture still lives there through the language, music, cuisine, crafts, and spirituality of the people (e.g. Day of the Dead).

If I was to put it into words, it was as I imagined a throwback would be to US American society in the 60s.

I've been to poor American cities before, but most of them are post-industrial.  Oaxaca never had a true industrial period - their treasured artisan crafts (mostly made by women) have more vibrancy and international appeal than ever.  As such, the post-industrial, post-global phenomenon of the hollowed out city doesn't exist there.  And there is no reason that it would develop into an international city with its decrepit ghettos as the rural areas surrounding Oaxaca City are just too poor and cut off by mountains with no great natural resources to exploit.  And so, it remains kind of a jewel in its own right.  Walkable, affable, with delicious eats everywhere.

I left Oaxaca thinking another way is possible. How do we get back to the family, to slowing down the pace?  Is community possible, and do you have to be poor to do it? What traditions can we build today to battle against the tide of urbanization and capitalist intensity?

the comal is at the center of oaxacan culinary life

quesedilla with freshly made tortilla from masa corn nimatalized on site, with squash blossom and queso

cactus

mountain vistas

monte alban, one of the earliest city-states

fresh squeezed morning juice

insane agave

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