November 23 – 27
We left Café Brujula and walked a couple of blocks to Porfirio Diaz to Espacio Zapata, a workshop and gallery founded by the art collective Asaro (Assemblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca) in 2006.
A great deal of the imagery here is related to death and day of the dead, but it was a fascinating place to explore, knowing that if we were to return after some time, the exhibits would all change and even the mural on the front of the building would be different.
As we were in the neighborhood and a touch parched after a busy morning and early afternoon, we stopped in for a drink at Santísima Flor de Lúpulo, for me another draft beer and Joanna that well-known Latin American variation, the Michelada. Comprised of beer, lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, tomato juice, and chili peppers, it is often served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass but can also now be found in cans and bottles.
Refreshed we made our way towards the Zocalo in order to check out another museum, this one the Museo Rufino Tamayo but when we arrived, we discovered that it was closed for the day. Undaunted, we walked up the street to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, which turned out to be quite close to the spot where our errant taxi driver had dropped us off a couple of days before.
Built between 1682 and 1690, it is a sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Solitude, the patron saint of Oaxaca. The architecture style is Baroque, and it was intentionally built with low spires and towers, as to better resist earthquakes. Along with the Historic Center of Oaxaca City, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.
As we left the Basilica, we stopped at its adjacent square to split an ice for 35 Pesos ($1.90), a refreshing treat on a warm afternoon. From there we ascended the stairs we’d climbed hefting our rolling bags, easier this time without the weight, noted the police outpost where we’d received the not so clear directions and then walked up the street to Azucenas, noting yet again another VW Beetle.
For dinner that evening we made our way to Mesquite, another recommended spot near Santo Domingo. As online reviews suggested, we asked for a table on the balcony with a great view of the church and the city beyond. Our waiter approached us with a bottle of Cordon Cerrado Mexcal and asked if we would like to try it. We accepted two glasses at 330 Pesos (about $8 each) for the pair and found it to be exceptionally fine stuff, bottles of the more expensive versions of this brand going for $100-$400.
Next up was an appetizer of a bean like paste served with tortilla chips and then we split a bowl of Sopa de Guias, a traditional springtime soup made of baby squash, squash flowers, small arepa-like corn dumplings, whole corn kernels, vine shoots, and chepiche, an aromatic herb.
It was curiously bland, not in a bad way and more filling than one would think. For entrée’s, Joanna delighted in a serving of Pasta con Mariscos, brimming with various types of seafood.
I ordered the Tlayda con Tasajo, a handmade dish in traditional Oaxacan cuisine, consisting of a large, thin, crunchy, partially fried or toasted tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, asiento (unrefined pork lard), lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat (usually shredded chicken, beef tenderloin or pork), Oaxaca cheese, and salsa.
This was accompanied by an additional form of the dish, the folded version, which is a dinner plate-sized tortilla either seared (usually on a comal) or charred on a grill. Refried beans are then applied, along with lard and vegetables, to serve as a base for the main ingredients. The rules for topping a tlayuda are not strict, and restaurants and street vendors often offer a variety of toppings, including “‘tasajo” (cuts of meat typical of Central Valley of Oaxaca), chorizo, and cecina enchilada (thin strips of chili powder-encrusted pork). They may be prepared open-faced or folded in half.
Mine came with a nice piece of beef steak, cheese and some unidentifiable cabbage like ingredient that made it tough to enjoy the dish. It was a lot of food to begin with and so I eventually fished out a piece of the steak and finished it off. I’d like to try this dish again and see how it varies from place to place. Perhaps an avenue of pursuit here at home? We paid the tab, coming to 1,075 Pesos ($55) including the tip, still quite reasonable given the quantity and quality of the food and the amount of mezcal and wine we consumed.
The walk back to Azucenas was pleasant, a warm evening along a now familiar route. One of the best things about traveling is that time in any location, particularly cities, when you begin to feel at home, the streets and landmarks recognizable, your sense of direction restored, the convenient shops one needs located and remembered. As we prepared for our last day in Oaxaca, we could take comfort in this simple pleasure, the recognition that the confusing can eventually become the reassuring.
Café Brujula: https://www.facebook.com/cafebrujula/
Espacio Zapata: https://espacio-zapata.negocio.site/
Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad: http://en.travelbymexico.com/oaxaca/places-to-visit/?nom=eoaxlasoledad