An Ancient Energy Ritual, Chocolate Crepes and Castration in Oaxaca, Mexico.

This morning I wake up to witness from my rooftop - Consuela and Carlos taking part in what looks like a religious ritual in their courtyard garden. There is a table laid out with great swathes of rosemary and freshly boiled eggs - and another man (some kind of priest) looks like he is blessing Carlos. I'm guessing they are not Catholics! 

I google it later – and i'm right its an old Zapotec ritual. Curanderismos are healers - Meso American energy workers. Aztec Ometeotl is a sacred union that looks into the heart and soul of the patients. 

Altars are placed in all directons then the patient in question goes through an "undrowning" to let out what is in their heart. The Limpia or spiritual cleansing uses eggs, flowers and fresh rosemary which are all seen as representing and indeed having life giving properties. 

Today I visit Monte Alban temple and settlement which the Zapotecs who set about levelling off a mountain to build it. This (in case you were wondering) is the Number 1 # Archaeological site in Oaxaca. There are a series of tombs, altars, palaces, temples and pyramids. There is also an ancient sports court. The Zapotecs played something called Juego de Pelota - a type of football. Fun came at a price - the game was tricky in that players had to manipulate the ball using their knees, hips, elbows and shoulders and losers were often put to death by being sacrificed! 

One of the tombs - Los Danzantes (building of the dancers) has large stone slabs outside with grotesque dancers carved into them with large phallic shapes. Apparently they used to cut off the members of men and push them into their mouths before sacrifice...mmm tasty - although i can think of a few men i would have liked to do that to...! 

I get back around early afternoon and doze like a seal, its thundering ominously outside (well it is rainy season.) 

Oaxaca is famous for its dark chocolate so I have a hot chocolate followed by a chocolate crepe to celebrate this fact and then decide to have a “holiday day” rather than a “traveller” day. 

I wander around the brightly coloured schools of the main square and visit its main church and former monastery - the 16th century Santo Domingo. 

I go clothes shopping and buy some playsuits and a pair of white shorts, walk in the park and sit in the sun, then go for a lovely lunch of lobster tacos and beer in a seafood restaurant The waiter follows me out: 

“I have your number?” he enquires hopefully. Er. No. 

Zeb is baking his suffolk beer cakes back home. I miss him. 

The tents occuping all of the streets around the main square are beginning to annoy me now – I constantly have to bend over double to avoid being garotted by their lines. Time to ship on out and head for the mountains -and somewhere i'm very excited to see - San Christobal de la Casas.

Mezcal and Mitla in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Conseuela and Carlos are a lovely little old couple who run the bnb that i've booked. They have twinkling eyes, grey hair and hug me with great warmth on my arrival. They don't speak any English but i'm gradually getting by with my Spanish and the Mexicans are very patient with my Argentinian pronounciation! Carlos heaves the 'bastard” onto his shoulders and I follow him up a winding little staircase in the middle of a huge open courtyard with a large tree growing in the middle of it. 

My bedroom is at the top with ensuite bathroom and even an English book on the bedside to read. Outside on the balcony (more of a roof with a sheer drop onto the courtyard below!) there is a little wooden writing table and a bird cage with two bright red love birds inside – pecking and bothering each other, like lovers do. 

There is also an enormous cockroach in the toilet bowl. I end up peeing standing up. Oh well its good for my quads. I don't feel too guilty - if they can survive a nuclear holocaust then he can survive me peeing on its head. 

Downstairs there is a huge Toucan that solemnly observes me down his long banana shaped beak with a doleful green eye.

There are too many bars here for my liking that are hiding this beauty. I'm not a fan of birdcages literal or metaphorical.... 


Breakfast is home cooked by Consuela – and consists of tortillas, green beans refried beans and scrambled eggs. They sit down and join me and after watching me try and eat a tortilla with knife and fork (how British!) Carlos demonstrates how I should eat it with my hands. 

Oaxaca is a beautiful little town, filled with cobblestone streets and pretty churches leading down into the main Zocolo. Its raining huge drops and the streets are filled with tents of teachers protesting for more pay (more protesting!) In the evening fireworks light up the stones and I can hear the music from an open air concert in the hills. 

I go on a day excursion to Mitla and am joined by a San Franciscan called Susie who is tanned with great teeth (like all Americans) and mad staring blue eyes. She is a counsellor who specialises in post traumatic stress disorder. She informs me that traumatic events have now been renamed and are called "adverse life events."

Can it really be healthy to rename the truly terrible things that shatter our lives

"yeah it was awful, my lover left me, my house burnt down and then I had a road accident"

"Oh really, i'm sorry to hear that how... adverse..."

Then again, words are very powerful. Maybe choosing a less impactful term dilutes the impact of the event itself. I don't know - my internal jury is out. 

Mitla means "City of the Dead" and was inhabited by the Zapotec tribe – an indigenous people -from perhaps as early as 900BC until at as late as the Spanish invasion in the 16th century. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in the region and is typified by the ornate and intricate mosaic tile work on its friezes. 

We see a 2000 year old Tula tree with a 42 metre diameter and also watch a carpet weaving demonstration given by an old Teuluan woman,  slowly spinning wool like an ancient sleeping beauty on her wheel. The tour guide demonstrates how they make the red dye – cochineal - through crushing the shell of the insects that live on the cacti – and then change the colour to vivid lilacs or burnt umbers through adding lime stones or lemon juice. 



We go to a Mezcal distillery to learn how the smoky tequila based liquor is extracted from the agave cacti – and then do a tasting of different flavoured shots inluding easily downable cappuccino and strawberry flavours that leaves us all a little half cut. The traditional way to do the shot is a ritual with a slice of lime rolled in crunched up worm mixed with chilli. Like anything rolled in spices and salt and downed with almost neat alcohol - the worm tastes great! 

And then we visit my favourite place of all –Hierve el Agua (literally Boiling water) ..... High up in the mountains, bubbling calcium rich springs have toppled over and calcified to give the appearance of petrfied waterfalls. The view over the misty mountain tops is cool and calm and ever so tranquil. Leading down to the cliff tops where the frozen salt streams cascade - - are bone white honey combed dips and shallows where litte pools of water have collected. An american kid takes of his socks and sits down to cool off his feet. People gravitate to the edge and then sit. This is a place to just sit and contemplate. A bride and groom are having their photos take, she froths out her veil and watches as the wind picks it up and blows it out behind her. 

We go for lunch where they are servingsome traditonal Mexican delicacies. Susan and the Colombian student she's been joined by have just decided to have beer as they can't afford the lunch. I fill up my plate with cactus salad , tacos and their crunchy pickled accompaniement. 

"I've brought back some extra grasshoppers" I say – 

" in case you want to try them." She looks horrified. 

They taste like all pickled things- a bit briny only with more legs. I was hoping for more of a peanut butter flavored crunch but they are not unpleasant. 

We leave late in the day.  Our tour guide Manuela berates us for being late (again.) We are all a little bit drunk still from the many different flavoured mezcal shots and i'm ashamed to say it but we really don't care.

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