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.