Posts/June, 2011/

Jardín Ethnobotanical and Oaxaca’s Zócalo

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Thanks for your interest in my recent nine day trip to Oaxaca City, Mexico. I’ve broken the trip into eight parts loosely organized by the central activity of the day. Want to see the other posts? Browse the Oaxaca category.

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Tamales for breakfast? Only in Mexico!

Our choice was between black mole or green chile. I chose the mole and washed it down with fresh juice, Oaxacan coffee, pastries, granola and yogurt, a whole table of trinkets, and a small VW.

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Our inward facing balcony at Casa de Las Bugambilias.

Near our hotel was the Jardín Ethnobotanical, a botanical garden in the same compound as Santo Domingo church and the cultural center.

The garden is by tour only. English tours are on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. They last two hours and cost a steep 100 pesos ($10) per person.

Early, we sat by the church and watched a massive group of well dressed Mexicans spill out and into the waiting arms of the crafts vendors.

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Old Ford truck interior by the botanical gardens.
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Newspaper reading room.
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Man carries table.

The tour was excellent, and it gave us a lot of information to forget about local plants and their uses. There were many types of plants I had never seen before, including a primitive cactus that grew more as a tree than a succulent. The highlight though was squashing the cochineal parasites that live on prickly pear cacti. While still used for textiles, cosmetics, and food dye today, the extract of this insect actually played a big part in the growth of Oaxaca. To learn more, please talk to your local entomologist/cultural historian.

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Inside the gardens.
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A cool ground covering plant that closes up when touched.
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Chilies.
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Irrigation system.
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Cactus, reeds, and a tall papaya tree.
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Parescusis, a primitive cactus that is more tree like.
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Courtyard with a wall of flowering dragonfruit.
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River stones channel drain spout water into an cistern.
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Cacti.
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An enormous barrel cactus and our guide.
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Prickly walkway.
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A crushed cochineal in my palm.
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Fence cactus and reflecting pool.
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Plumeria.

We came back to the hotel to rest for a bit and I walked full force into the glass door for the balcony.

Rested, we headed out to lunch at the town square called the Zócalo. For dessert, more ice cream. We tried mamey and tuna. The later is not fish flavored but rather the name of the fruit of the cochineal’s crib.

In the square, a children’s dance performance began. The costumes were adorable and seemed a little culturally insensitive, even to me.

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Crispy mole dish.
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Colorful, but unskilled performance.
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Duck boy.
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Mexican chicken kissing dance?

A short distance from the Zócalo are two of the original markets in town: Benito Juárez and 20 de Noviembre. Both pale in size to de Abasto, but have all the bases covered. I bought some copal tree sap incense chunks and some gritty local chocolate. We walked through the smokey meat grilling hall that was featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain.

A sudden downpour flooded the streets and strained all the outdoor tarps around the market. Standing in the middle of the wet chaos, I could have sworn I was in Thailand again.

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Inside the Benito Juarez Market.
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A woman discusses dried chilies.
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There’s barely room for a vendor in this fortress of spice.
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A man and his canned goods.
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A new Team Fortress 2 update.
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Sudden downpour, safe driver.
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Inside the meat grilling hall of the 20 December Market.
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A woman pushes her meat.
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Smokey.
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Various chocolates.
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Chicken nap.
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Hot chocolate with milk and dipping bread at Mayordomo Chocolate.

Back at the hotel, we figured out how to get the hot water working. And I thoroughly humiliated J in the next 1000 point stretch of our rummy battle.

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