Friday, May 06, 2011

Mexico Travel Journal Part 3

Hey everyone!  Sorry for the long delay.  I hope you've all enjoyed my Mexico Travel journal so far because today, I've got the biggest post yet!!  If you need to get caught up, check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Also, if you'd like to have a closer look at my sketches, just click on the picture for a hi-res version!  Enjoy!!

DAY 6:  Joy and I start off the day by heading towards the Ethno-botanical gardens for a tour.  As we made our way there, we noticed a group of people gathered around a local food cart on a street corner.


We get closer and realize the guy is serving pork tacos and some sort of hot soup from the pork broth topped with cilantro, diced onions, and salsa.  We order both and were blown away by the flavor.

These were definitely THE best pork tacos we've ever had!

yummy street food
After breakfast, we head over to the Botanical garden for our tour.  We saw a bunch of interesting looking plants and even learned a thing or two about Mexico's rich botanical history.  (Did you know that chilis have a high vitamin C content?)

Mexico has TONS of cacti!

After the gardens, we geared up for our most interesting tour of all:  A trip to Teotitlan de Valle where we visited a group of women who were being given a loan through our donations to the tour.  This was a type of micro-finance which helps women from the town get enough money to finance their projects such as rug making, textiles, and even food for their local shops.  
walking the street of Teotitlan with our guide..
It was quite an eye-opening experience to visit these women and see the hard work and the labor that they put into their crafts.  They opened their homes to us and made us feel welcome to see their handiwork as well as the process for making their goods.

You can see how many rugs and bags this woman has been able to make which was possible through donations from the tours:
beautiful rugs
Here, she talks about how she now prefers to use natural dyes over synthetic ones.  In this case, she crushes these dried bugs called cochineal to make this deep, brilliant red!
Using natural dyes!
 Another woman we visited uses her loans to make tons of tortillas.  Here she shows us her stash of corn which she'll then make into tortillas.
corn for tortillas...
Textiles are HUGE in Oaxaca and Teotitlan de Valle is now known for their vibrant and beautiful rugs.  We were invited by another woman who, with the help of her husband, specializes in making ornate rugs.
the looms create these beautiful rugs
One of the last women we visited made these flat, crispy wafers using an iron press heated over a tub of hot coals.  It was awe-inspiring to see this woman devote so much time to making these wafers using this press.  That press weighed a TON!  I can't imagine having to do that for half an hour, let alone a whole day!!
Each wafer takes about 5 minutes to make and she had a stack of several hundred.  She generously gave one to each of us as a sample.  Interestingly enough, they tasted like fortune cookies.
tasted like fortune cookies!
We were all pretty tired by the end of the tour but it was absolutely worth every minute.  It was truly inspiring to see these women glowing with pride at how they've banded together to be successful enough to support themselves as well as their families.  This was hands down the best experience I've had on the trip so far and one I will NEVER forget.

For those interested in making a donation or to learn more about En Via, please visit their website at :
rugs sold at the town square

Day 7: On our last full day in Oaxaca, Joy and I decided to visit Monte Alban, one of the earliest cities in Meso-America.  

a view of the valley
Another interesting view was of the ball court (think ancient basketball)!

Of course, we did more pyramid climbing while we were at the site!
We returned to Oaxaca shortly before lunch.  It was perfect timing because we ended up buying several types of food from a local street fair.
Joy buys some chamuy (sour tamarind with chili sauce)
Grilled chicken for lunch!!
After lunch, we decide to ramp down a bit and do some more people watching.  Since it was a Friday, there was a good buzz of activity at the zocalo ranging from students to street vendors as well as shoe shiners!

a great view of the church while relaxing at the zocalo

Joy's sketch on the top right of the page!

textile vendor
As night descended on the city, it was bittersweet.  We had a great time in Oaxaca, meeting some of the warmest, kindest people and getting to enjoy the culture of this great city.  We would have to leave the next day but it was definitely a place we would never forget!!
Our last night in Oaxaca


Sian said...

Chris this trip looks awesome! Great sketches and photos!

Anonymous said...

Amazing!! I've always wanted to see Oaxaca!

Mafer López said...

Hi Chris! I really didn't know where to contact you and then I saw your blog and found out you came to my beautiful country (even my city! ¡VIVA MÉXICO!) and I just had to leave this here. I am a HUGE fan, of both you and Pixar Animation Studios. I've been in love with animated films since the first time I saw a Disney movie back in 1997, and when I saw Ratatouille I just knew that was what I wanted to do when I "grew up". I just finished high school and will be studying Digital Animation and Art, and I just wanted to know if you could give me any advice or even tell me how you got started with this and what an amazing trip it has been to you by landing a job at probably the most amazing place on earth. If you could take a little of your time to send me an e-mail (here's my mail: with your success story (including the rocks on the road you had to overcome to be where you are at the moment) it'd mean so much and I'll be forever thankful :) I am really passionate about animation and if someone as talented as you could give me a word oh dear, it'd make my day.