People will ask you why you return to Oaxaca every summer (instead of venturing somewhere new).

Sometimes you will offer that Mexico is brimming with magic ripe for your writing, that you can’t resist harvesting a summer full of stories.

Other times, you might ramble off the importance of immersing yourself in language. You may even offer this in your slow Spanish with an imperfect accent to prove you must return again.

You might explain that you like the pace of Mexico at the end of a long semester.

However, you never tell the truth.

Some of your favorite children live there and you are desperate to witness them grow up full of joy.

Lucha Libre


I went to see Lucha Libre (wrestling entertainment) at Pepe Cisneros Arena with three other ladies who were unfamiliar with this sport. The scene was fascinating and made me want to know more about what I was seeing and hearing.

I was surprised by the graceful gymnastic abilities of some of the wrestlers and the power of others.

I was impressed by the heckling banter between the announcer, the wrestlers, and the crowd.  It made me want to know what I was missing.

Most of the evening’s antics were clearly choreographed interactions, but one was too real.

There were six wrestlers, three on each “team,” battling.  Five of them had landed outside the ring following a series of skirmishes.  Only The Zombie, an athletic acrobat in purple, remained in the ring.

We watched as he sent himself off the back rope like a slingshot.  Instead of going over the top row and diving into the crowd, he sailed through the rails and slammed into a metal rail.

He crumpled on the ground, seized a couple of times and then was still.

We decided to head out as the paramedics carved a path through the silenced crowd.

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Help Wanted

help wanted

There are a lot of employment opportunities as long as you fit the description and are willing to work for peanuts (or in this case, popcorn).

According to this sign, to work at an ice cream, icee, popcorn stand, you must have a great customer service attitude.

You only need:

to be between 18 and 40

to be female

to have attended junior high or high school

to be available hourly

to have a good appearance

to have an indistinct marital status (Don’t wear a ring, if you’re married?? Don’t have your husband show up there??)

and be filed in the area (I think this means to be a local resident)

They offer:

a base salary, all services (healthcare?), and weekly pay

We Sell Goat Cheese!


In case you don’t understand queso de cabra: goat cheese, the kind people at the Pochote Market cheese stand, are here to help you know what you are getting.

Pochote Market is an organic farmers market that draws a lot of wealthy folks and tourists (who speak English and other languages).

Who needs words to make an effective sign?  Plus, who can resist an adorable constellation of miniature goats? I can’t!


just salary immigrants

I saw this sign in Llano Park:

Everyone has a right to dignified work and a just salary. Immigrants are people who have family, want work, and have rights like you.

I asked some locals who these immigrants are, where they are from, and whether this was a new message. The folks I spoke with said the immigrants are mostly folks from other Latin American countries and that this is not a new message.

I asked why it was in the park if it was not new. I asked if it had anything to do with the influx of immigrants headed to the United States. I asked if they knew immigrants who’d faced discrimination.

I always have more questions than answers.

Sanchez Pasquez Market


The thing I dislike most about traveling alone is that it is harder to get snapshots of the unsuspecting.

In addition to learning to cook in the Casa Crespo class, I reaped several other unanticipated benefits:

1. I learned the names of some of the fruits and vegetables I was not familiar with.  More importantly, I learned how one might break into some of these foods because the chef offered us samples of some of them.

2. I learned where the healers are in the market and recognized some of the herbal remedies enough to be able to find the healers again in the future.  I had no idea these services would be available in a mostly food focused market

3. I got some pictures of the locals at work.

I recommend, at a minimum, a guided tour of a market as a key to understanding more about all of the products and services available in one bustling space.

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Casa Crespo


I decided to take a cooking class at Casa Crespo.  After watching a video of Chef Oscar Carrizosa on his website: http://casacrespo.com/redescubre-mexico-buick-mexico/, I decided I could probably make it through four hours of cooking class–if there were more people.

When I went to sign up, I was the only person on the books for the day.

I arrived, and there were two other students, and then two more arrived.  I was relieved.

We started off with a mug of hot chocolate (or coffee, but they make their own chocolate) and bread with jamaica jam.  Delicious!

Then, we made our menu together:

  • Mole fiesta/bueno, a mole with seventeen ingredients, including chocolate (we would have this with chicken and in our tamales)
  • Avocado gazpacho
  • Regular and squash blossom and cheese tortillas
  • Guacamole: avocados and garlic pulverized in a molcajete and topped with diced mango
  • Four salsas: regular (tomatoes, onions, garlic), regular with toasted avocado leaves, regular with crushed worms, and regular with cumin
  • Quesadillas with epazote and squash blossom or with grasshoppers
  • Empanadas with cheese or with spinach and mushroom
  • Chiles relleno with chicken and mole sauce tamales
  • Sorbet with mezcal and orange juice


After planning our menu, we headed to the market and to the corn mill.  We picked up some ingredients, had a fresh juice break, and got corn milled for masa for tortillas and a different mixture for tamales.

Then, with the help of a couple of sous chefs, we were off and running.  I was happy to see that my classmates were about as adept as I am with kitchen utensils.  We all expressed a mix of enthusiasm and intimidation.  We did a good job of sharing the tasks and letting everyone have a try.

In the middle of the afternoon, as our mole and chicken were stewing and our tamales were steaming, we headed up to Casa Crespo’s terrace and had a beer.

We ended the meal with a shot of mezcal and some chocolate samples.

The eating went on and on.  We had to sample everything, and when we did it was so delicious, we could not help ourselves.

At one break in the symphony of yumming, I asked the others which course was everyone’s favorite.  After tremendous deliberation and much admiration for the mole recipe, we unanimously agreed that the chili stuffed with tamale stuffed with our mole and chicken was probably our masterpiece.  At the same time, the dish we all agreed we would likely replicate is the silky avocado gazpacho.

This multi-sensory adventure as so many of my experiences here made me feel uncomfortable and ignorant, but, in the end, I cannot help but be happy with what I learned.

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