Journey to Oaxaca

Spring 1990

The journey south...

If you're going to Oaxaca, get on a bus pointing south and go for three or four days. You'll find yourself in another world. Looking out the window of the bus is like watching an endless motion picture that very artfully captures the feeling of vast bright deserts carved with arroyos and mesas. Forests of cactus, backed by the rough edged Sierra Madre Mountains, offer little shade. The film is set in the land of Pancho Villa, Geronimo, Coronado, and Santa Ana. One can almost smell the smoke of Clint Eastwood's six-shooter as the bus bumps through ancient white and rust adobe pueblos, but of course it's only diesel fumes coming through the window as the bus slows down to let a team of oxen cross the road. The movie is filled with artful shots of crumbling adobe houses, with roofs of sunburnt tiles or straw, and old burros straining under huge bundles of firewood. It doesn't miss the horses that look like sheets of heavy canvas thrown over a framework of bones or the old man taking his afternoon siesta on the shady side of a cactus fence. You are also given glimpses through arched doorways into the courtyards of the huge colonial houses and see the cool green light created by a jungle of garden plants and flashes of color from strange flowers and courtyard birds, all in contrast to the brilliant and blinding glare of the streets.

After three or four days of this epic and entrancing film, of passing through endless flat deserts and over and down and over and down great hills of stone and earth, after marveling at all the strange birds and plants, the abundance of burros, adobe and concrete, you'll find yourself winding down out of the parched hills into the immense valley called Oaxaca.

This is a place filled with potters and weavers, stone carvers, adobe and brick makers, trash sweepers, meat sellers, gum sellers, jewelers, bus drivers, bike riders, corn planters, corn eaters, tortilla makers, licuado makers, tomale makers, mescal brewers, drunks, sobers, bankers, doctors, policemen, army men, school children, maids and more corn planters, all of whom are interesting people, but the pottery is something you shouldn't miss.


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