Looking for art in all the right places

One of the many attractions of Oaxaca is discovering art on almost every corner. Mexicans are master craftspeople and Oaxaca offers an intriguing balance between adherence to tradition and innovative design. The result is the same – a walk in any direction is a feast for the eyes.

Look up.

Look down.

Look into doorways.

Street art is everywhere. In the next blog posting I will feature a couple of neighbourhoods that are well-known for their street art, some of it done by international artists. The following examples we discovered not too far from home.
This one is asking for Mexico to allow citizens to control their own land and for women to control their own bodies. Women’s rights are a common theme here – posters about violence against and murder of women are everywhere.

I wish I knew more about the meaning behind this one. This woman, with her rather fearsome lady bits, is flanked by men with eyes averted.

How to interpret this piece? Are these young men breaking away from tradition? Bringing precious history forward with them? Or just being little hoodlums?

This haunting piece is just inside a restaurant door and visible from the street. I loved the expressions on the faces of these children.

And this one…is this man, carrying his heavy load, leaving the world of flowers and birds and light…is he heading into darkness and the unknown? Or perhaps he is just coming home after a long day. Or perhaps I am reading too much into these murals and could benefit from a knowledgeable guide.

This is right across the street from our place. The white sign on the wall advises us that this building is unsafe and presumably destined for demolition. In the meantime, it has been beautifully decorated.

Oaxaca is constantly undergoing renovations – many streets have scaffolding and boarding up to hide the work that is going on behind. This is an example of the contrast: a recent reno beside a similar building that needs a little TLC. There is a height restriction in Oaxaca of just three storeys, which makes for a very pleasing streetscape.

Most of the restaurants we have been to so far have had decor as interesting and innovative as the food. La Zandunga, which is a traditional Mexican waltz, is also an excellent restaurant and a showplace of design. Have a look:

We ate very well here (sadly my photos didn’t work) – two huge plates of assorted starters that gave us a generous taste of Oaxacan cuisine, plus three beers – all for $40, tip included. This same meal, in this kind of restaurant in Canada, would have cost three times that amount.

Baltazar, a Oaxacan newcomer, is both restaurant and mezcal distillery/museum. The doors behind Stephen open into three exquisite rooms that, through paintings, text and exhibits, explain the history and manufacture of mezcal. Those objects in the air are pine cones hung from overhead wires. The food was just as imaginative – a three-course comida corrida for $6 CA.

Our friends Jan and Dave introduced us to El Pipe, a traditional restaurant in a hotel. We sat out in the courtyard and enjoyed the most delicious lunch together and a high point was the beautiful service we received. Tourism has been devastated here, as it has everywhere of course and the sad fact is that many places will simply not survive another winter. In spite of the fact that we were the only guests that day, our server made it comfortable and fun.

We began with shrimp bisque and then followed with pork mole poblano. This is a classic Oaxacan sauce, made of dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, chiles, tomatoes. There are several varieties of mole and this one is a bit smoky, a bit sweet and a bit spicy. The pork literally could have been eaten with a spoon. You know when food is so good that words fail you and you just sort of incoherently laugh and groan? That was this dish.

No room for dessert? Don’t be silly. Who would say no to a tiny, perfect flan?

Back out on the street. This are two rooftop restaurant/bars side by side that we intend to visit one day.

We passed by this young man creating a street scene from string. I would loved to have hung around long enough to see it really take shape, but that never seems like the right thing to do. He was polite but very intent on his work, and not encouraging the chatty gringo lady to linger.

Even the most mundane objects can be made beautiful. Here are two examples – a recycling bin for plastic bottles.

And a Coca-Cola sign.

More street scenes.

Our final image shows one of our favourite pastimes – watching the sunset from one of our shared rooftops; this one from Jan and Dave’s patio.

10 thoughts on “Looking for art in all the right places

  1. Wow, wow, and wow, what a life you two are leading, and what a beautiful place to land for a while. I’m afraid I’m getting just a wee bit envious. Love the pictures and the colour and the sunshine, and your remarkable facility with story-telling. Thanks for Sharing, stay safe! xo Garry


    1. Great to hear from you two!

      We do feel very lucky to be here – not riding out the storm exactly, as Covid is certainly here, but dealing with it in much more palatable surroundings – being able to be outside.

      We keep saying we will get together – let’s hope it will be possible soon.


  2. Well done Ginny! Oaxaca looks a beautiful place. Don’t you have to love the faces of the local children on the murals. Those dishes look delicious and such wonderful presentation. I could almost taste the mole dish from your description. How did Don & I never get there ??
    In this dreary weather in Langley, I am overjoyed by your blog. They make my day brighter. Stay safe and enjoy that sunshine.

    Lyn Morris, Langley, B.C.


  3. It would definitely be interesting to find a guide who could explain the meaning of those murals, how intriguing!
    Also so much colour and warmth in every corner.


    1. Laurence, I have such a weakness for great street art, especially since a lot of it has social and political messages. We are going for a guided walk in a couple of days and I’m hoping I can pick their brains a bit then.


  4. Ginny was that a photo from your friends balcony showing La Soledad? Stayed near there at the end of Matamoros St (no vehicular traffic). Is the traffic noticeably less? I don’t suppose the barking dog population has been reduced by covid. Love the photos of the murials on the wall. How wonderful to be in a place where pubic art is so prominent. I have a friend who has published a book of the murals of Montreal and some are really amazing. He’s working on another one now. I wonder if anyone has done one for Oaxaca. Keep well. Very tempting to come down. Have you been able to locate a place where you can get the special shot the airlines require? I suspect Canada is going into some sort of severe lockdown come this weekend with the numbers climbing and projected illnesses overwhelming the hospital systems. Keep safe and healthy. Abrazos Jon Snipper


    1. Yes, that balcony overlooks La Soledad, and we are 1/2 block from Matamoros. We count our lucky stars because there are no dogs within hearing range of our place, and Mexican dogs seem to have incredible staying power when it comes to barking for hours on end. We do have a population of feral cats that do a stand-off most nights, but it never lasts long – they lose interest after a few minutes.

      Yes, we feel blessed to have access to such graphic displays of pubic art. :>)

      Still not sure where to find a lab that will administer our tests that fit within the 72-hour time frame, and we’re still working out how to come back home – details!

      We miss the pre-Covid Oaxaca – the fabulous night life and vibrant street life is gone, as are the great museums. But…it’s not raining!


  5. I remember the incredible examples of street art in Oaxaca from some of your previous visits and I continue to be amazed by the variety, not to mention the imagination of the artists. Truly a feast for the eyes! ( by the way, speaking of “a feast for the eyes” … your image of the tart has my mouth watering!)


    1. Your daughter has a real craftswoman’s talent and artistic eye. When we were unpacking Christmas ornaments this year, I came upon two Christmas cards she painted and sent us over the past years. They were too beautiful to throw out.


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