Oaxaca, Mexico

Latitude 17.06477°N Longitude 96.72417°W

Friday, September 13, 2002

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In the morning Keiko & I started the day in royal form with steaming mugs of hot chocolate at the Posada Chocolate (The Chocolate Hotel!). Delicious concoctions made from La Soledad chocolate: a blend of cocoa, vanilla, cinamon and sugar.

Dinner was at Pizza Alfredo da Roma, which was pretty mediocre. Over dinner we planned our itinerary for our next destination, the Yucatán Peninsula and Chiapas. We were considering renting a car from Oaxaca and driving a big loop: Villahermosa, Campeche, Mérida, Cancún, Chetumal, down Highway 186 to the ruins at Palenque, then dropping off the car in San Cristóbal de la Casas or Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Should be candy. From Tuxtla we would get a bus to Antigua de Guatemala, probably crossing the border at Ciudad Cuauhtémoc. Despite this part of the journey taking us through Chiapas, which has been the center of a lot of violence between the Zapatista rebels led by Subcomandante Marcos and the Mexican Government (eg. the Acteal Massacre in 1997), the locals believe that as long as we don't stray off the beaten path too far we should be OK. In any case, our most excellent Spanish tutor, Mark Williams, had prepared us for the journey with the following easy language lessons:

Lesson 1.

En route to Guatemala, when stopped by the Federales:

ENGLISH: "We are only passing through, sir (gentlemen), to the border of Guatemala, by your pleasure, with your advice and assistance"

SPANISH: "Estamos pasando solamente a traves, Senor(es), a la frontera de Guatemala, por su placer, con su consejo y ayuda"

Lesson 2.

Resistance or questions will likely ensue. A subtle way to ask if a bribe (la mordida, "the bite") is appropriate, avain very formal, showing subservience:

ENGLISH: May I ask, sir (gentlemen), if it is appropriate or necessary, at this point that a tax is needed for us to pass only through to the border with Guatemala?

SPANISH: Puedo pedir Usted(es) senor(es), si es apropiado o necesario, a este punto nos digan Ustedes por favor, que un impuesto es necesario para que pasemos solamente a traves a la frontera con Guatemala?

Lesson 3.

They will undoubtedly want to look through your vehicle for weapons destined for the Chiapas guerrillas. Offer to do so, again with respect and formality (you have nothing to hide):

ENGLISH: "Of course, gentlemen, if you believe this to be necessary, you are welcome to search our vehicle, as you deem necessary."

SPANISH: "Por supuesto, caballeros, si Ustedes creen esto a ser necesario, es agradable Ustedes podian buscar nuestro vehiculo, pues Ustedes juzgan necesario."

On the way home we stopped by another free youth concert. Tonight a eight piece salsa band was playing latin music with dancers showing off all their various styles. The sound of the band playing in the open night air was fresh and intense and spontaneous, these guys were jumping. Alto sax, tenor sax, trumpet, percussion, congas, piano and bass; their complex rythmical parts fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and painted an irresistable aural soundscape. Some of the best music I have ever heard was by good musicians in understated and intimate surroundings, and tonight's show ranked way up there with some of the best. Naturally, Keiko and I held back from getting up on stage and showing everyone "how it was really done", gringo style!

Photos: (click on images to see full size)

The BEST hot chocolate at Posada ChocolateRaw cacao for sale at the markets

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