Agave hearts ready to be roasted (on the left) and after roasting in a pit oven on a small-scale mescal producer's farm (right). Agaves take seven to ten years to reach maturity; then it takes some thirty to forty of the hearts to create a single batch of mescal - we were told that a ton of fermented agave hearts results in twenty to thirty liters of mescal. We bought a liter for thirty pesos - or two and a half bucks. I am sipping some of that right now as I write this post.
Evening in Chiapa de Corzo. Homero bought us a carriage ride around the main square. In an old colonial town like Chiapa de Corzo, there are three or four churches within a two block radius of the main square, each decorated for Christmas. This photo was taken out the back of the carriage, which was driven by an old man in his seventies, who gleefully pointed out all the old points of interest. "That was the movie theatre," he said, and "right there was old mercado, before they moved it." His was the only horse drawn carriage in the area, and patronizing him felt like supporting a time gone by.
Nearly every business in Mexico has an altar. Perhaps in the Christmas season the altars are more prominent and elaborate than usual, but I have been visiting Mexico for some ten years now and I have always noticed the altars set up in every establishment, no matter how humble. The altar above was set up in a gas station: an ordinary Pemex station along the highway.
This picture is from our visit to the limestone caves above the city of San Cristobal de las Casas. As far as I can tell, the caves have no name besides "las grutas" which simply means "the caves." The entrance is located within a beautiful park about ten miles outside of town. It costs ten pesos to enter the park and another ten to visit the caves - about two dollars total for an incredible experience.
El Palacio Municipal (city center) lit up for Christmas with lovely magenta light. This building lines one side of the zocalo in San Cristobal de las Casas, providing one fourth of the gaudy, gorgeous pageantry surrounding the main square. Three bands were playing; couples were dancing; old movies were projected on rolled down screens; and of course dozens of artisans strolled hither and yon hawking their wares.
Tule: the largest tree of it's species in the world. The species is Taxodium mucronatum , a kind of cypress. It's trunk is the stoutest in the world. The tree towers over the church built in front of it. It is a lovely and impressive tree. The town is also lovely and impressive - about fifteen miles outside of Oaxaca, a goof place to visit, to eat at the mercado and but artesanias.
Beautiful and strange art installation in the corredor turistica in Oaxaca. Somone, or several someones, placed hundreds of hand built, unique clay people in the courtyard of Santo Domingo, the grandest and most ancient church in Oaxaca. It looked like a pilgrimage of Morlocks.
I absolutely cannot remember which of a hundred beautiful churches this is.
Chapulines. Grasshoppers, in other words. In pre-hispanic times, insects provided a significant portion of the people's protein. Even today, many species of insects are highly prized as food and command high prices. Chapulines are only one of many. Agave worms, Chinches, and Escamoles are only a few of the bugs one might find in a well-stocked mercado. Chapulines are the most available: the common wisdom holds that if one eats chapulines one will always return to Oaxaca.