A Travellerspoint blog

Antiques and Collectibles in Mexico

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City (Lagunilla), Puebla (Los Sapos) & Oaxaca

Alvin Starkman M.A., LLB.

The Sunday open air antiques stalls at Lagunilla in Mexico City, the expansive roadside collectibles shops just north of San Miguel de Allende, the stores and weekend marketplace at Los Sapos in Puebla, and good old fashioned picking in the state of Oaxaca. Each provides a fruitful avenue for acquiring antiques and collectibles in central and southern Mexico. Of course there are many more, but over the past two decades this transplanted Canadian has found success pounding the pavement (often in the case of Oaxaca barely passable dirt roads and pathways) in these four venues.

The Selection of Antiques and Collectibles Available in Central & Southern Mexico

While the selection and quantity of antiques available in central and southern Mexico is impressive, those searching for depression and other collectible glass might be in for a surprise. There is very little glass from American, Canadian and European factories available in Mexico, relative to what one finds in Canada and the US. And when one does come across quality antique glass, in most cases it’s expensive. However, hand-blown glass (vidrio soplado) has been manufactured in Mexico since the 16th century, though a different quality than the glass one encounters back home. Mexican glass is relatively common and priced to sell, usually in excellent condition in terms of original hand-painted designs and without chips or cracks.

One comes across a fair bit of military memorabilia including weapons, vintage books and coins, tiles and other ceramic pieces, advertising signs for products and cinema, as well as other smalls. Naturally, religious artifacts are prevalent, including retablos, ex votos, cherubs and crosses.

Iron has also been forged in Mexico since the 16th century, generally holding up well with time. In fact ironworkers in modern Mexico, at least in the southern half of the country, are arguably the best of all the building trades in terms of workmanship. Locks and keys, railings, gates, frames, in addition to tools and weapons and a plethora of other iron products, are encountered without difficulty in Lagunilla, Los Sapos, San Miguel de Allende, and even in the few antique stores in Oaxaca.

Collectible stone pieces are available in virtually all shops and markets, in particular grinding stones (referred to as metates with manos – the hand piece) used for mashing corn, and mortar and pestle sets (known as molcajetes) for pulverizing predominantly spices, herbs and chiles. One sometimes stumbles upon hand-hewn limestone cornices off of convents and government buildings.

Both rectangular and dome – topped wooden chests are widespread. The painted or stripped baúl (pine blanket box for Americans and Canadians) is often found with its original four – legged base. Doors off of administrative buildings and ex – haciendas are massive in terms of height, width and thickness, frequently found with original hardware in tact. Tables, wagon wheels and implements round out the other main wooden collectibles one can find throughout this part of Mexico.

Select Locales for Finding Antiques and Collectibles in Central & Southern Mexico

The Sunday open air Mexico City antiques and collectibles market known as Lagunilla extends for several blocks, and is accessible by walking from any of the hotels close to the zócalo (central square), and of course by taxi. There are a few antique stores in the area as well, although the vendors with stalls constitute the main attraction at Lagunilla.

Many travel books caution about safety and security at Lagunilla, and some dealers warn about being in the area approaching dusk. However antique hunters should be fine, provided normal precautions are taken: do not venture off to what would appear to be a “seedy” area; do not flash large wads of cash; keep cameras and purses in front and close to the body; and yes, it would be imprudent to wander around the area as night approaches.

The quaint quarters known as Los Sapos, in downtown Puebla about four blocks from its zócalo, are also a haven for collectors and dealers. The weekend market is admittedly small, especially for those accustomed to the Christie Classic Antique Show at Dundas, Ontario, the expansive sales at Brimfield, Massachusetts, and similar large, outdoor antiques and collectibles markets in Canada and the US. But one can find gems at Los Sapos, both by scrounging through the Saturday and Sunday stalls (not all the same vendors attend both days), and to a lesser extent in the shops within three or so blocks of the open – air marketplace. Lamps and chandeliers stand out, especially in the stores, at prices hard to resist.

Highway 51 leading out of San Miguel de Allende en route to Dolores Hidalgo is a fruitful route for finding antiques, especially larger pieces. Prices are surprisingly reasonable, given that many of the ex-patriots living in San Miguel de Allende are of significant means. It’s curious that prices tend to be exorbitant San Miguel proper, yet accessible only a few miles away in the several shops and sprawling outdoor antique yards flecking both sides of the highway. Get out of the city, be it with a rental car or by hiring a driver, and stop at every outlet.

While Oaxaca does have one extremely large antique store (on Calle Abasolo) with a particularly impressive selection of jewelry (and almost everything else), for its size Oaxaca is a wasteland for collectors and dealers, and prices are steep relative to what one finds elsewhere in central and southern Mexico. You have to go to the rural areas.

Oaxaca is noted for its craft villages, market towns and colonial churches in the countryside. But these towns and villages have been pretty well picked over since the travel boom which began in the 1960s. Accordingly, it’s imperative to venture beyond the usual tourist stops. Virtually all of the antiques and collectibles enumerated above can be found in Oaxaca’s hinterland, in addition to the occasional early craft item (i.e. fanciful wooden alebrijes, ceramics, textiles).

The central valleys of Oaxaca are purportedly where the chango mezcalero originated. Chango mezcalero is a baked clay receptacle painted as a monkey, used for holding and serving mezcal, the alcoholic beverage derived from the agave plant. The same $20 whimsically painted ceramic bottle produced beginning around the 1930s, fetches $500 or more on a couple of Mexican antiques websites. But like everything else, they’re getting harder to come by.

Cautionary Notes for Antiques Aficionados Traveling in Central & Southern Mexico

Mention of pre-Hispanic artifacts is conspicuously absent from the foregoing. There are two reasons:
• The law prohibits buying and selling archaeological pieces, and of course their export. One periodically hears of even Mexicans winding up in jail or subject to stiff fines as a result of trading in pre-Hispanic pieces.
• Reproductions represented as originals are big business, even at the pre-Hispanic ruin sites, another reason to stay clean of archaeological pieces. If it’s represented as a repro, then go ahead. Query how vendors at Lagunilla can flog pieces they represent as legitimate pre-Hispanic artifacts, out in the open, if they are indeed originals. Campesinos sometimes approach foreigners stating they have just come across pieces while plowing. While certainly it happens, and there continues to be artifacts being unearthed all the time, these farmers have access to reproductions as well.

Other antique and vintage collectibles which are being reproduced and are sometimes represented as old, include advertising signs, metal cantina trays, ex votos, papier maché “puta” dolls, ceremonial masks and ironwork. Of course well – made reproductions are often quite attractive and are suitable as home decor, but unless certain, don’t pay prices which correspond to the value of true vintage collectibles.

In some cases contemporary well – worn implements may appear to be antique, but are not; nor is there an attempt to misrepresent. Take for example, metates. Some are pre-Hispanic, while others could be only 30 – 50 years old, since some Mexican women today still grind corn over a large flat river rock. After decades of use it appears no different than a metate which was worked 1,500 years ago.

Another class of collectible that may or may not be antique, yet without attempt to misrepresent, is galvanized metal containers in a variety of shapes and sizes, for making tamales (tamaleras), and for carrying milk, water and other liquids.

Wood is at times difficult to bring into the US and Canada. The laws in Australia are even stricter. Pine, copal and other soft woods are susceptible to insect infestation, akin to termites. The problem is known as polilla. Tell-tale signs are tiny holes in the wood, or if it’s been sitting in one place for a while, a white powder can be found alongside the piece. If in a shop, look around the base before picking up anything wood.

When buying contemporary collectible alebrijes, and other wooden products, ask what precautions have been taken to prevent polilla infestation. In San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca, the high end workshop of Jacobo Angeles and María Mendoza uses both soaking in a gasoline / insecticide mixture, and leaving in a special oven for a number of hours, so as to enable the workshop to guarantee its work.

Finally, resist the temptation to awake before dawn to get to the markets before anyone else. In most cases antiques and collectibles dealers with stalls at the outdoor marketplaces do not arrive and set up at the crack of dawn, like they do at markets like Christie or Brimfield. If you arrive at 8 a.m. (before virtually all other pickers and collectors) you’ll be there while the vendors are setting up, and if you arrive at 10 a.m. there will still be stalls being arranged. Having provided this advice, guess who nevertheless awakens at 7 a.m., and gets to the antiques markets as soon as possible thereafter, invariably first succumbing to relaxing at a sidewalk stand for an early breakfast of hot chocolate and tamales, yes, before heading off to the market, scrounging for Mexican antiques and collectibles throughout the better part of a day?

Owner of Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com), Alvin Starkman (M.A., LL.B.) leads personalized tours to the craft villages, market towns, pre-Hispanic ruins and more off-the-beaten-track sights in the central valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico. He consults to documentary film companies, and writes articles about cultural traditions in Oaxaca for magazines, newspapers and travel websites. Casa Machaya combines the comfort and service of a Oaxaca hotel with the quaintness of a country inn.

Posted by titosarah 13:59 Archived in Mexico Tagged mexico in san de antiques oaxaca miguel allende puebla Comments (0)

Tattoo Artists in Oaxaca, Mexico

Lawyer & Fine Arts Graduate Make Strange Bedfellows as Tatuadores (tattoo artists)

Alvin Starkman M.A., LL.B.

Background to Tattoos & Body Piercing in Oaxaca, Mexico, Through the Eyes of a Lawyer

Lawyer Kaireddyn (Kai) Orta began fabricating his own, rudimentary tools for making tattoos in 1996, while still in high school here in Oaxaca, Mexico. One day a neighbor saw him carrying a shoe box, and asked him what was in it. Kai showed him the adapted motor, needles, ink and other paraphernalia. The neighbor was the recipient of Kai’s first tattoo. Kai then began doing tattoos for his schoolmates.

Kai had been interested in tattoos (tatuajes) and body piercing (perforación) since boyhood. It was natural for him, since his father was a history teacher, constantly recounting stories of rituals of Mexico’s indigenous populations. There was no shortage of books around the house with images of pre-Hispanic peoples who were accustomed to self-adornment. Kai ate it up.

But throughout Kai’s youth, seeing tattoos in the flesh was a rarity. Aside from in books and occasionally coming across a tattooed person on TV, he would only have an opportunity to actually see real live people with tattoos and body piercings when he would catch a glimpse of mainly North American and European tourists walking the streets of downtown Oaxaca, a Mecca for international tourism.

The modern tradition of tattoos and body piercings had been established in countries such as Canada, the US, Spain and Britain, long before it arrived in Mexico. Like so many representations of emerging subcultures, it takes upwards of a decade for them to catch on in Mexico, especially in the more isolated and conservative regions of the country, like Oaxaca.

The state of Oaxaca was by and large physically isolated from the northern half of the country, and indeed
the broader world, until the arrival of the pan American highway in the late 1940s. While the odd adventurer would make his way down to Oaxaca between then and the early 1960s, it was the hippie movement later that decade and into the early 1970s which opened up southern Mexico to the concept of North American and European counter-cultures, including tattoos, and then body piercing. However the prevailing sentiment of the Mexican middle classes was that their children should be insulated from foreign youth, and all that its subculture stood for.

Leap forward to the 1990s. Change would begin to emerge in Oaxaca. Tattoos, body piercings and other non-traditional forms of self-expression had begun to be perceived as mainstream throughout the Western World. The silver screen and magazines promoting its pierced and tattooed stars had become commonplace. Oaxaca had to take notice. And that included its older generation, which was then forced to recognize if not accept that the ritualized behavior of their grandchildren (and to a much lesser extent their children) could no longer be equated with something devious, dirty and wrong, simply as a consequence of changing their physical appearance through piercing and painting their bodies, permanently. Many in the Oaxacan youth culture were becoming critical thinkers through higher education, therefore better able to make informed decisions, stand up for them, and celebrate them.

Kai is thirty years old. Practicing law wasn’t for him. By the time he had graduated and had a taste of the working world of attorneys (less than a year), he had already become an established tattoo and body piercing artist, with his own studio, albeit quite smaller than his current digs. And besides, most lawyers in Oaxaca do not earn the level of income that provides for a middle class lifestyle, at least by Western standards.

Kai’s current storefront on Calle Crespo, in the heart of downtown Oaxaca, consists of:

• The reception area with long desk and computer, tropical fish filled aquariums, display cases with mainly jewelry relating to body piercings, wooden African floor sculptures and masks (as well as a few Mexican masks), a bookcase filled with albums containing drawings and photographs of mainly tattoos, and two comfortable sofas where customers can browse through the “catalogues” at their leisure
• A similarly adorned middle room with supply cases by now of course filled with modern, commercial equipment and supplies, and a small adjoining workroom
• The back room, with chairs and “operating” table, for attending to tattoos and body piercings

“Here in Oaxaca we don’t refer to ourselves as ‘artistas,’ Kai explains. “In the United States there’s much greater acceptance of the art form and those who are dedicated to the skill, so in the US and other countries such as Canada it’s acceptable to use the term ‘tattoo artist.’ But in Oaxaca we just refer to ourselves as tatuadores.”

Kai & Colleagues Participate in Twelfth Annual Tattoo Fest in Oaxaca, Summer, 2010

During the course of a 3 ½ hour interview at Kai’s studio, his friends and fellow tatuadores from Mexico City, Daniel (Tuna) Larios and his girlfriend Angélica (Angy) de la Mora, were in the shop working and otherwise serving customers, while for part of the time Kai was out running errands.

Tuna has been a tatuador for 12 years while Angy began doing tattoos only a year ago, when she began living with Tuna. Together they opened up a shop in the nation’s capital. Before then Tuna had been doing tattoos for customers at other studios. He was introduced to the trade from having had his body tattooed. Angy learned the skill from Tuna.

But for Angy learning to be a tatuadora was a natural extension. She already held a degree in fine arts from a university in Chihuahua, and had participated in several collective traditional art exhibits. “But it’s easier to make a living doing tattoos than as an artist,” Angy concedes. As distinct from Angy and Kai, most tatuadores in Mexico do not have advanced training for other career paths options.

Tuna and Angy had come to Oaxaca to participate in the twelfth annual Tattoo Fest, held on August 21 & 22, 2010, a couple of days earlier. Kai is one of three festival organizers, and was on the ground floor of the concept when the first fest was held back in 1998. “Until this year the event was called Expo Tatuaje,” Kai clarifies. “We decided to change the name with a view to attracting more foreigners. But back in the early years we held the exposition so that we could meet to exchange ideas, improve access to modern equipment and supplies, and raise the level of consciousness of the Oaxacan community, so that hopefully there would be a greater acceptance of what we were doing. Now the purposes and functions of the event are much broader, since we are well on our way to achieving our earlier goals.”

The success of Oaxaca’s Tattoo Fest 2010 was evident from the crowds (hundreds by all estimates) and sales. Tuna and Angy between them did 11 tattoos over the two-day period. “I’ve been coming to the fair for the past four or five years,” Tuna explains, “but this is the first year I can actually say that it was worth my while, profit-wise, to come to Oaxaca. You know I had to close my shop in Mexico City to come here. I think this show has finally turned a corner.”

This year there were approximately thirty booths, about a dozen of which were dedicated to doing tattoos. In the course of a one-hour visit on the Sunday, during that entire time each and every tatuador was kept busy working – and in many cases there were onlookers in queue awaiting their turn.

Many vendors had come from other parts of Mexico to participate. They converged on Oaxaca to not only do tattoos and piercings, but to also sell a broad diversity of related materials including:

• Tattooing and body piercing equipment, supplies and other paraphernalia
• CDs, DVDs and posters all with alternative themes (both Bob Marley and Alice Cooper live on in Oaxaca)
• Body piercing and other personal adornments, wrestling masks, and clothing, custom-painted while-u-wait.

The event was much more than a sales opportunity for retailers, however. It provided a chance for those in the business to promote their industry, source state-of-the-art and otherwise imported equipment and supplies (since many tatuadores don’t get to Mexico City very often, and most imported machinery, needles and paints arrive initially in Mexico City), and entertain tattoo and piercing collectors, aficionados, and the curious, all under one roof, the Salón Señorial located across from Oaxaca’s renowned Abastos Market.

As Kai contends, there appears to be three classes of people in Oaxaca, and presumably in other countries, who get tattoos:

• The colecionista who usually ends up filling most parts of his or her body, attempting to adorn with as broad a diversity of designs as possible, or with a particular class of design or artistry (i.e. demons, pre-Hispanic figures, animals, famous faces), often seeking to get the work done by several different top tatuadores from various states and countries if possible
• The aficionado who wants a few tattoos strategically placed on select body parts
• The casual individual who desires one or two tattoos for self-expression or to make some kind of statement, having seen a tattoo he or she likes, whether on a celebrity, friend or stranger on the street, or electing to do a specific design; a tattoo of the logo of one’s favorite sports team exemplifies this type work

It’s not unlike other hobbies and interests. Human nature remains the same. The first category represents an obsession with collecting, just as in a class of antique, salt and pepper shakers, folk art, weigh scales, and so on. The second is an enthusiast who imposes boundaries, either by design or subconsciously based on personality trait. The third does only selective thinking about it, whatever the product, holding some interest, often fleeting but long enough to result in a purchase or two.

In the course of the two day celebration of all that is still somewhat considered counter-culture in Oaxaca, there was:

• Live entertainment including seven predominantly rock and reggae bands, as well as belly dancers and other forms of choreographed performances
• An outdoor makeshift restaurant serving beer, soft drinks, and real barbecued hamburgers
• Panel discussions and forums with themes including methods for advancing the reputation of this alternative art form in Oaxaca, and dealing with allaying health and safety concerns through the adoption of US-style norms

Health & Safety Issues a Concern of the Body Piercing & Tattoo Trade in Oaxaca, Mexico

Throughout the US there are health and safety regulations relating to tattooing and body piercing; not so in Oaxaca, though it’s a hot topic throughout the Mexican tattoo and body piercing community. The word “normas” is constantly being bandied about. The tatuadores at Tattoo Fest, and more particularly Kai, Tuna and Angy, made a point of indicating that most in the industry follow US norms for health, safety and hygiene. According to Tuna, the United Kingdom has the strictest, all-encompassing laws relating to tattooing and body piercing, which he views as a good thing.

It appears that virtually all tatuadores are sensitive to the clout carried by the authorities, even without specific laws relating to tattooing and body piercing. In Oaxaca it’s the Secretaria de Salud (ministry of health) which does in fact conduct spot checks of studios, much the same as it does of restaurants in Oaxaca. It has the ability to shut down a restaurant, eatery or comedor, on the spot. And the same holds true for a tattoo studio.

The threat or perceived threat of incarceration perhaps serves a positive function in the tattoo and body piercing milieu. While Oaxaca’s inquisitorial, Napoleonic legal code is slowly changing (oral trials arrived in the state of Oaxaca in 2007, albeit for only the most heinous criminal offences), the attorney general’s office still has the right to jail alleged offenders of virtually any rule, law or regulation, where a personal injury has resulted. Without specific laws relating to tattooing and body piercing, perhaps Oaxaca’s current legal system, as high-handed as it might appear, serves an important function for the tattoo-buying public. Certainly it appears to keep those in the industry in check.

“We won’t work on a minor, plain and simple, without parental authorization,” Tuna stresses. “And in fact, rather than relying on written permission from a parent, for me, I personally want the father right there in my studio when I’m working on his son or daughter.”

Having been trained as a lawyer, Kai has a special appreciation for the implications of not ensuring a clean, safe work environment in his studio, and following health, safety and hygiene procedures established in other jurisdictions, “to the tee:” packaged needles; equipment kept under wrap; gloves and masks; first aid, fire and related health, hygiene and safety equipment close at hand; a “surgical” workspace segregated from the retail portion of the shop; etc. The back of his business card lists steps that should be taken by recipients of tattoos from the moment they leave the studio, to reduce and hopefully eliminate the risk of infection or other complication. Other tatuadores hand out leaflets listing the same or similar precautions that should be observed.

According to Tuna, in Mexico City one can take courses in tattooing and body piercing at a couple of different institutions. But they are for learning the trade, and are not government regulated. Tuna views an inconsistency between government treatment of dental offices and tattoo and piercing studios, and unfairness: “There are a lot of dental offices around which are much less clean than our studios, and whose staff do not follow the most sanitary of practices; and yet the dentists are not subjected to the suspicion and innuendo that we are.” [At least dentists are required to have a minimum level of training regarding matters of health, safety and hygiene.]

Kai, for one, is clearly an expert at his trade. From the outset, dating to his high school days, he would invariably read and otherwise learn before starting to work on someone. He would always work in consultation with a doctor, a relative of the family. The doctor was a most valuable resource for Kai in terms of guiding him through all the appropriate health and hygiene procedures, for every step. Kai has never worked on anyone without approaching the task with a high level of confidence. But, he acknowledges, “you never stop learning.”

The Economics of Tattoos and Body Piercing in Oaxaca

Angy is working at the counter, doing a pencil drawing of a 1950s pin-up – with a twist. A young woman had come into the studio the day before, wanting a tattoo on her leg of a vintage pin-up girl, but part of the body to be non-traditional, as in one leg and half the head perhaps with skeletal bone exposed, the rest shapely and feminine; as in a Mexican catrina, as Angy puts it, “but with a bit of flesh on her body.” The customer is due back today at 4 p.m.

Two men in their twenties come in to look at tattoo samples. They sit down and browse through two albums for about 40 minutes, then arrange for one of them to come back the next day for a fairly large black tattoo of the Pumas Mexican soccer team logo. Then two younger girls come in looking for eyebrow rings or other similar adornments, in the 250 - 300 peso range.

Kai’s studio does a brisk business. He charges a minimum fee of 400 pesos for a simple tattoo, a tribal, literally “tribal,” as they’re known, or perhaps a letter. It was the same minimum charge at the Tattoo Fest: “Sure, some tatuadores will do a tattoo for 150 – 200 pesos, but most of us prefer to start with prices where we can take our time to do quality work that the customer will definitively appreciate, and therefore want to come back, show off to friends, and so on. I’ve been doing tattoos long enough, and my quality is such that I should command that kind of price, and the customer is more than satisfied.”

Kai and Tuna charge within the same range. They both are happy to work by the job, or per daily session. Kai charges 1,000 – 1,500 pesos per session, which can result in a fairly substantial, detailed, color image. Tuna will do a full back for 10,000 – 15,000 pesos. Each has done large, complex multi-color tattoos for as much as 20,000 pesos. That seems to be the top price in Oaxaca.

There appears to be a desire to reinvest profit into securing a better work environment, and higher end equipment. Regarding the latter, in most cases it’s simply a matter of imported machinery and supplies commanding a higher price, and the fact that the options for Mexican-made equipment and supplies are much more limited. Hence the desire to search abroad for more diverse product lines. “Don’t get me wrong,” Tuna cautions, “there is high quality equipment manufactured here in Mexico, but we lack the range in products, and of course everything imported is perceived as better and therefore fetches a higher price.”

Continuing education also seems to be a priority for tatuadores. A few years ago Kai traveled to Guadalajara to take an intensive course. According to Angy, sometimes tatuadores will take a brief, area-specific art or drawing course to enable them to keep up with market demand. Most tatuadores do not have training in fine arts, so seizing the opportunity to learn is something to which many aspire. In some cases rather than turn away a prospective customer for lack of particular expertise, it’s better to invest in learning a new aspect of the trade through training.

It’s rare for a tatuador to turn away business, but it does happen. It’s usually a result of the artist not being able to do quality work based upon the requested design, than finding it repugnant. Perhaps it’s simply that tatuadores do not often encounter someone who wants, for example, a swastika on the forearm. “Usually what happens is someone comes in and wants a small tattoo, of whatever, on a finger or arm, and I know that I cannot do a good job given the requested size, or that after a short period of time the quality will diminish,” Kai admits. “So I suggest something different, something larger or with a different color scheme, or for a different part of the body. Sometimes the customer agrees, sometimes he leaves, and sometimes he insist, in which case I decline the job.”

“We can all use more business, but it’s a skilled trade which we want to elevate in terms of its reputation, so we must all strive to maintain standards, as well as our personal integrity;” Kai asserts.

The main reasons that customers do not return is lack of funds for either additional tattoos or to continue with the same project, or pain. “Different people have different pain thresholds,” Tuna advises. “The sex of the customer sometimes is a determinant of the pain one can expect will be felt, depending on the particular part of the body. Working on the same part of the body can affect men differently than women.” Only 50% of Tuna’s work is repeat business.

Kai has a preference in favor of working on men rather than women. Why men? Men tend to want larger tattoos, which translates to more artistic license and a greater ability to produce a true masterpiece. “But don’t get me wrong,” Kai adds defensively, “I love working on women, and do just as high quality work, always.”
Customers in their twenties make up the largest age group. Otherwise, occasionally a teen comes in with a parent, perhaps 20% of tattoo-seekers are in their thirties, and a much small percentage comprises an older clientele.

Advice for Americans, Canadians, Europeans and Those from Further Abroad Wanting a Tattoo in Oaxaca

Tuna admits that in Mexico there are perhaps two high quality tattoo artists per 300 tatuadores, stating that in the US the numbers are very different, two per hundred. It’s difficult to accept his figures, having seen several quality tattoos on the bodies of Oaxacans, and having had an opportunity to speak with many Oaxacan tatuadores and evaluate their dedication to the skill, and their desire to elevate its reputation through self-improvement. Tuna contends: “If someone wants a tattoo that I know another tatuador can do better, I refer him to a colleague. That builds public confidence. For me, I know that in black, I’m at the top of my game.”

The triumvirate of tatuadores is ad idem when it comes to passing along advice for tourists visiting Oaxaca and wanting a tattoo:

• Don’t rush; spend as long as required with the “tattoo artist,” chatting, looking at his or her designs, and examining the surroundings of the studio
• Ascertain if the tatuador has a particular specialty, or higher level of competency in one area versus another (i.e. color as opposed to black)
• Address any health, hygiene and safety concerns, since while the ministry of health does have rules and regulations of general application, and spot checks of tattoo studios are conducted, no specific body exists for policing the tattoo industry
• Notwithstanding the foregoing, as indicated the lion’s share of the tatuadores in Oaxaca do follow the American normas, those in the industry wanting to elevate their trade to having a more mainstream perception amongst the Oaxacan populace
• Look for instructions regarding how to care for a tatttoo, starting with the moment after leaving the studio, to reduce and hopefully eliminate the chance of complications – either on a flyer or on the back of a business card
• Ask questions, questions and more questions until satisfied that both the process and the end result will meet or exceed expectations

Tattoo Removal in Mexico

Tuna confirms some obvious reasons for seeking to have a tattoo removed:

• As required by an employer (i.e. change in job position)
• For the purpose of attempting to secure employment
• The individual was very young when he or she received the tattoo, and later had a different attitude towards this type of body adornment
• The quality of the tattoo was poor or questionable from the outset
• A change of mind regarding the image or towards body alteration, conceivably later perceived as adulteration

With the modest cost of quality plastic surgery in Oaxaca, tattoo removal in the state proves to be an attractive option for those wishing a return to a tattoo – free existence.

References for Tatuadores in Oaxaca & Mexico City, & A Oaxacan Plastic Surgeon for Laser Tattoo Removal

• Dermografics, Primera Calle de Crespo #106, Centro Histórico, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, cel: 0449511198642; e: casadeldolor@hotmail.com (Kaireddyn Orta)
• Toltecan, Eje Central #191, esq. Dr. Duran, Col. Doctores, Mexico City, tel: 55 31266558 or 55 31469578; e: sucubus6@hotmail.com (Daniel Larios & Angélica de la Mora)
• Dr. Filiberto Fajardo, Circuito la Cascada #1|03, Fraccionamiento la Cascada, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, tel: 513 8921 or 515 3715

Alvin Starkman has a masters in anthropology and law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. Now a resident of Oaxaca, Alvin writes, takes tours to the sights, is a consultant to documentary film companies, and owns Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com ), a unique Oaxaca bed and breakfast experience, providing Oaxaca accommodations which combine the comfort and service of Oaxaca hotels with the personal touch of quaint country inn style lodging.

Posted by titosarah 14:41 Archived in Mexico Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

Children’s Cooking Classes in Oaxaca, Mexico

Casa de los Sabores Oaxaca Cooking School Inaugurates Lessons for Children, Stresses Nutrition, Kitchen Safety & Hygiene, and Recycling & Composting

What better way to begin offering children’s cooking classes than with pizza and mango smoothies. The inaugural children’s cooking lesson at Chef Pilar Cabrera’s Casa de los Sabores, in Oaxaca, Mexico, imparted the basics of kitchen safety and hygiene, composting and recycling, and nutrition, all within a three-hour session. And at the same time, lead instructor Ninfa Raigosa infused the morning with helpful food preparation tips that even as adults we don’t always learn early enough in our culinary lives. But best of all, it took place within the context of preparing recipes which are fun for children to make --- with the dreaded green salad snuck in at the end.

Genesis for Offering Children’s Cooking Lessons in Oaxaca

The idea of offering cooking lessons for young boys and girls came to fruition as a result of two phenomena. Firstly, often in the course of fielding inquiries for cooking classes from tourists visiting Oaxaca with their families, Chef Pilar would be asked whether or not children could attend. Of course age has always been a factor, but often requests have had to be rejected so as to ensure that classes proceeded in an orderly fashion without undue disruption, for the benefit of the mainly adult aficionados of Oaxacan cuisine.

Secondly, many Oaxacans are at a loss for what to do with their children once school is out for summer vacation. While certainly activities abound in Oaxaca, relative to what’s available in larger urban centers, they’re limited. Why not offer a two-week cooking course in July?

And so this initial class held on May 1, 2010, was intended as a precursor to initially a summertime cooking course, and then classes during other holiday times throughout the year. For tourists traveling with children, timing should be perfect. And for multiple families traveling together at any time of the year, this could be just what the pediatrician ordered.

Of course Pilar Cabrera’s reputation as a national figure on the Mexican culinary scene has long been established through her “House of Flavors” cooking school and downtown Oaxaca restaurant La Olla, and more recently through her forays onto the international stage (food festivals in Toronto and San Antonio, with upcoming dates in Austin and Stratford). She hand-picked Ninfa Cecilia Raigosa Paras to head up this new initiative for two reasons. Firstly, Chef Ninfa arrives with a diversity of experience, including educational training (at the Rocatti Centro de Estudios Culinarios), in catering and banquets, at various restaurants, and in specialty bakeries (i.e. Deli Cupcakes and Dulce Nectar). Secondly, and perhaps key, is Chef’s Ninfa’s uncanny ability to relate to children using her amiable personality and warm smile – and just like Pilar, she’s bilingual.

The bonus for American and Canadian children is that with a mixed class of Mexican and foreign visitors, and bilingual instruction, the kids are bound to learn some basic kitchen and ingredient words in Spanish, if not through direct teaching, then certainly through osmosis.

The May 1, 2010, Cooking Class for Children at Casa de los Sabores, Oaxaca

Chefs Pilar and Ninfa were both at the helm of this frist class, attended by ten children of varying ages. Most parents remained on site at the outset, to take photographs and to obtain first-hand assurance that their children would be comfortable in a class of predominantly unfamiliar faces.

In this type of learning environment the ice must initially be broken. Here it was achieved by asking each child’s name and promoting interaction between the children themselves, and with Ninfa and Pilar. The ingredients for each recipe were contained in a separate large, round colorful basket. “Who knows why we use yeast?” And then to reassure parents, “when we cut these mangos to make the smoothies, we won’t be using sharp knives; but you should always be extra careful when using knives, and never, ever raise a knife to head level. Can someone tell me why?”

Recipe sheets are distributed. Chef Ninfa goes through each recipe, pointing to the ingredients in each basket and briefly explaining how they will be used.

For the pizza dough segment, the group is divided into two teams, one learning to make the dough from scratch, and the other about kneading and rolling: “Always mix the dry ingredients first, and use your hands.” And for the benefit of those who had grown up watching their abuelitas making tortillas: “Making pizza dough is similar to making tortillas; if it starts to stick, use more flour.” Hands-on classes tend to work best, especially so for children.

“Okay, anyone want a cookie?” Three times in the course of the lesson, short breaks are encouraged so as to not overload information intake nor run the risk of boredom setting in. “There are plastic bottles of water over here, and a couple of marking pens so each of you can write your name so they don’t get mixed up.”

The children are given a choice of making large or medium crusts, by shaping the dough themselves, or choosing from the several small forms which are provided; hearts, mushrooms, trees, and squares, triangles, circles. The sauce has been pre-mixed, but the children are encouraged to choose their toppings from selections of veggies, sliced meats, and even fresh basil. “Did you know that a mushroom is actually a fungus?”

“Now let’s all wash our hands again. But let’s not forget to first clean off our work areas well, and put the organic waste in this bin, and the rest over there. Does your neighborhood have recycling programs?”

“Attention everybody please; now while the pizza is in the oven we’re going to make the mango smoothies. I’m going to teach you how to peel your mangos, safely, by carefully cutting four strips through the skin ... just like peeling a banana.” The children are encouraged to use every bit of pulp, right down to the pit.

“Here’s the bowl with the mango cut up, and now we’re going to add some pineapple, some orange juice, a bit of yoghurt .... and who knows about linseed and why we add little bit to the blender as well?” A brief discussion ensures about omegas and energy.

Smoothies are prepared and poured into plastic cups accompanied by straws and small decorative drink umbrellas. “Taste how sweet it is; and you know, we didn’t put in any sugar. You can make your own smoothies using other kinds of fruit as well, such as watermelon and cantaloupe, and they’ll taste just as fresh, flavorful and sweet, without any added sugar. By the way, there’s a bowl of strawberries over there if anyone wants a little snack.”

The children are then asked to review their printed recipes for the salad. Some had actually put check marks beside the pizza and smoothie ingredients as they were being used. A lesson ensues about the different types of lettuce, its general lack of taste, and hence the reason for using dressing: “We always use oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and today we’re using balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Has everyone tried this kind of vinegar? Okay then, we’ll each try a bit. It’ll be a bit sweet.”

“Is it soya sauce,” someone asks. “It’s delicious,” another pipes in, while a third emphatically states he doesn’t like it.

“Vinegar and oil have to be mixed together really well. See the oil at the top; now watch.”

Plates are passed out, and each child is encouraged to create his own salad by adding pre-cut vegetables and grated cheese to the organic lettuce. The printed salad recipe sheet concludes with: “Taste, check the seasoning, and serve immediately.”

The pizzas then are removed from the oven and allowed to cool; each child is encouraged to take what he made, as well as to sample from the larger pizzas. The group sits around the large rectangular table, indulging in the fruits of their labor, while chatting and joking with their new-found friends.

Children’s Cooking Classes in Oaxaca Provide Exposure to International Dishes

The summer, 2010, two week course will present participants with an opportunity to learn to prepare menus from different parts of the world, each day represented by the cuisine of a different country. Subsequent series of classes will likely follow suit. Groups interested in single lessons will be able to choose from a selection of international menus, but there will inevitably be restrictions in terms of dishes requiring stove-top preparation, out of an abundance of caution. According to Chef Pilar, “children’s safety must remain the foremost consideration.”

Alvin Starkman has a masters in anthropology and law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. Now a resident of Oaxaca, Alvin writes, takes tours to the sights, is a consultant to documentary film companies, and owns Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com ), a unique Oaxaca bed and breakfast experience, providing Oaxaca accommodations which combine the comfort and service of Oaxaca hotels with the personal touch of quaint country inn style lodging.

Posted by titosarah 16:21 Archived in Mexico Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Production of Pulque in Matatlán, Oaxaca

A Case Study of One Family's Traditions

Alvin Starkman M.A., LL.B.

It’s still dark when Abraham Cortés García is in one of his fields on the outskirts of hometown Matatlán, harvesting aguamiel, the “honey water” used to produce the naturally fermented drink known as pulque (POOL – kay). He usually gets up at about 5 a.m., and either does the 20 minute walk to el campo on his own, or en route stops by son Lorenzo’s homestead to ask him to come along; or he picks up a neighborhood mozo, a young helper. At 77 years old, Abraham shows no sign of slowing down, a stunning revelation since later on in the day he must do his other chores both around the home and in the countryside, and then just before dusk finish collecting aguamiel for a second time.

Santiago Matatlán is in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, about an hour’s drive from the state capital. It’s one of the oldest colonial settlements in all of Mexico, founded in 1525, only a few years after the arrival of Cortés. But the true notoriety of Matatlán is derived from its reputation as the world capital of mezcal, the distilled derivative of the agave (maguey) plant. In 1980, the town boasted 360 small mezcal factories (the number has greatly diminished since then). However pulque, not mezcal, reveals a more colorful history, dating to pre-Hispanic times.

Evidence suggests that the Spanish learned distillation from the Moors, and then imported rudimentary methods to the New World; thus the genesis of mezcal production. Mezcal is the byproduct of the heart, or piña, of certain varieties of agave (primarily the espadín) being baked, then crushed, fermented, and finally distilled.

Production of pulque, by contrast, begins with aguamiel which has been extracted from the core of distinctly different types of agave plants known as pulqueros. Once the pulquero has matured, after anywhere between 12 and 20 years of growth, the aguamiel is harvested and then fermented; no baking, no crushing, and no distilling. The preponderance of proof indicates that drinking pulque has been a tradition of the Zapotecs and other indigenous groups dating back as early at the 3rd century AD, often associated with ritualistic social and religious ceremonies.

Lorenzo is the eldest of Abraham and wife Victoria Hernández Mateo’s six children. He’s 55 years old, married with four children and several grandchildren. Lorenzo and his father are fortunate this morning, having this writer and his research assistant drive them to the fields. They’re lucky because it had rained most of the night, and the dirt roadways are much more difficult to navigate on foot than usual.

It’s still pitch black out, but Abraham and Lorenzo knowing their way is not an issue. On hundreds of previous occasions they’ve walked those same paths between rows of agave, nopal cactus, and freshly plowed furrows awaiting the sowing of corn. They also work other plots of family land, cultivating black beans and garbanzo, in an overall effort to maintain nutritional self-sufficiency.

For collecting aguamiel Abraham and Lorenzo bring along their simple yet effective tools of the trade. There’s the ten liter plastic receptacle (to others more commonly thought of as a gas can); a length of rubber hose taped to the neck of a 2.5 liter plastic Coca-Cola bottle; a funnel fashioned from another Coke bottle; and a slightly concave, razor sharp, one-piece metal raspador, 4 -5 inches in diameter with short handle.

The pulquero agave is one of the more magestic and attractive succulents one will ever encounter. At maturity it’s often ten feet tall, and 6 or more feet in diameter, counting the outer reaches of its curled blue-green leaves known as pencas, each of which has a slightly raised design on both sides. Because of the needle-sharp tip and series of thorn-like pricks forming the edges of each leaf, precautions must be taken before harvesting begins.

At maturity, a stock known as a chiote shoots up, extending almost 20 feet into the air. It’s cut down with a machete, or in the language of the trade, castrated, following which the plant is left for a week prior to the commencement of “tapping.” Several leaves are sheared off, while others are gingerly bent over backwards, the spiny tip inserted into and through a lower leaf. This reduces the likelihood of injury once harvesting aguamiel begins.

A specially forged and sharpened iron tool is then employed to carve out a cavity or well in the center of the plant from where the chiote had emerged. The well is perhaps 18 inches deep and six inches in diameter.

We walk through the mud, each step seemingly more difficult than the last, although only so much can cake onto one’s shoes. Abraham and Lorenzo are far ahead, knowing exactly where they will work this early morning, anxious to begin, and then finish harvesting from ten of their 400 plants. Darkness accentuates the feeling of tranquility; the air is fresh after the night’s rain; moon beams shine on the agave, enhancing their natural brilliance.

Abraham approaches a pulquero, steps up onto a makeshift wooden step stretching across and resting on the plant’s leaves, then ever so carefully reaches in and removes strategically placed thorn-laden branches from some type of bush; then a hand-hewn wooden top about ten inches in diameter; followed by a piece of cloth, then a smaller wooden lid, and finally a sling-shot shaped piece of wood. The plant’s inner sanctum is revealed.

In his broken Spanish (Zapoteco is his first language) Abraham explains:

“You see that colored liquid, that’s water, not aguamiel; we have to get that water out from last night’s rain, before reaching the aguamiel. The “Y” shaped piece of wood straddles the well opening so that little top stays in place and doesn’t fall in. The cloth keeps bees and other insects from getting at the aguamiel. The larger top actually has to be nudged into place between the leaves; it keeps them from bending forward and encroaching on the open well area. Then I put those spiny branches on top of everything. They keep the animals, especially possums, from getting at the well during the night. When we finish with each plant this morning I won’t have to put the branches back on top because the possums only come out at night, and I have to come back anyway in the late afternoon for the second harvest. Then I’ll put them back. Even though I use the two tops, and the cloth, look at how the water has managed to sneak in.”

Aguamiel is harvested twice daily; in the early hours of the morning, and again at the end of the day, the final chore before a late evening dinner. Abraham obtains an average of four to five liters of aguamiel per harvest, with luck 10 liters a day. Depending on the size of plant, it can be tapped in this way twice daily for between two to four months. But when it rains, less aguamiel is produced because the water displaces the hollow inside the well, the result being that less aguamiel can seep through the plant and into its cavity.

While assisting in some steps of the process, Lorenzo assumes more the role of a passive participant, appearing content to hand his father the tools as he is asked for them. Lorenzo’s still an apprentice in the eyes of dad. He will have finally gotten it right when his father is no longer able to do the harvest.

Lorenzo gives Abraham the hose – bottle contraption. Abraham lowers the bottle end into the cavity, then sucks on the hose. The rainwater enters the bottle through a small hole in its bottom. He pours the water on the ground, and then repeats the task. Finally he’s reached the milky aguamiel, so this time, with the aid of the funnel the liquid is directed into the gas can; the once again until the last drop has been suctioned from the well.

Using the raspador at the end of each harvest is the key to being able to obtain the maximum aguamiel the plant is able to yield. Abraham scrapes a thin layer of fleshy fiber from the inside of the well. The cloth and wooden pieces are then carefully placed on top of the cavity, in appropriate sequence, before moving onto the next plant.

Lorenzo and his father don’t go to the agave in the same row beside the first, but rather pass it by and continue walking until Abraham selects an alternate plant to be worked. He knows exactly where he’s going. He occasionally has to point Lorenzo in the right direction. The routine is repeated nine times.

Hard work is deserving of reward. It’s about 8 am, and all things considered the harvest has gone reasonably well, with three or four liters of aguamiel collected. Abraham pulls a small plastic soft drink bottle from his pocket, together with a tiny half gourd. We each have a couple of shots of mezcal before heading back to the house.

Late that afternoon, while Abraham is back in the fields with his team of oxen preparing the earth for planting, wife Victoria holds court with a few of her neighbors, one of whom translates from Zapoteco to Spanish:

“Let me get you some pulque, but wait, it’s pretty strong. Do you think you can tolerate it?”

Although 80 years old, her sight and hearing failing, Doña Victoria plays her part in the family business. She filters the aguamiel, and ensures that at least two grades of pulque are readied. She deftly controls the degree of fermentation, using strong pulque from a previous batch as a starter for the freshly harvested aguamiel, the goal being to adjust the percentage alcohol with the aid of time and ambient temperature, in order to achieve the desired kick. As the partner in charge of sales, she must have a good idea as to who will come by when, for how much, and the desired degree of fermentation for those particular customers – both neighbors and other townspeople, and the odd vendor who buys and resells either in Oaxaca or in weekly village marketplaces.

It’s been said that pulque is good for the white blood cells. But the women this afternoon chatting with Doña Victoria have differing beliefs. As is the case with all traditional tales regarding the relationship between food & drink and health, each is subject to conjecture and proof. One neighbor says “it’s good for the lungs,” while another assures that if drank after a period of fasting it invariably results in a longer and healthier life.

The culture of diplomacy in Oaxaca dictates that one does not lightly speak of the inferior quality of the product of the competition. One gleans only that there are a number of pulque producing families in Matatlán, some of whom may cut corners and use commercial additives. It’s the same subtle gossip that occurs within the mezcal industry, amongst Oaxaca’s rural producers: “our product is the real thing, 100% natural;” or, “she sells pulque in the markets, but she doesn’t grow agave, and doesn’t do the work that we do – she just buys from us, and from anyone else she chooses, and resells. So who knows about the quality?”

Whether drinking pulque made by the campesino who awakens with the roosters to harvest aguamiel before the sun begins to beat down, or purchasing in the markets, there’s a definite, distinct difference from the pulque produced for the commercial marketplace, and the real thing. One can only hope that when the time comes, Lorenzo will follow in his father’s footsteps.

Alvin Starkman has a Masters in anthropology and law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. Now a resident of Oaxaca, Alvin writes, takes tours to the sights, is a consultant to documentary film companies, and owns Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com ), a unique Oaxaca bed and breakfast experience, providing Oaxaca accommodations which combine the comfort and service of Oaxaca hotels with the personal touch of quaint country inn style lodging.

Posted by titosarah 06:28 Archived in Mexico Tagged educational Comments (0)

Drugs, Violence and Safety in Oaxaca, Mexico

The truth about why you should consider vacationing in this Southern Mexico city

Alvin Starkman M.A., LL.B.

Five articles on page A3 of a daily newspaper began as follows:

• The special investigations unit has been called in after a man was shot and a second man broke his jaw during an arrest…

• A woman described as armed and dangerous is wanted by police in a home invasion robbery…

• A man barricaded himself inside a house for almost an hour after attacking another man with an axe…

• A man tried to lure a 14-year-old into his truck…

• A young man is clinging to life after being shot in the head at a west-end community centre during a brazen afternoon shooting…

From June through December, 2006, and in fact well into 2007, foreign governments issued initially travel advisories, then outright advice against traveling to Oaxaca because of purported rampant violence and safety concerns, and again more recently warnings about civil unrest and violence in this southern Mexico city of about 400,000, a mecca for tourists. Yet New York, Chicago, L.A. and Toronto remained immune from such government wrath…oddly so given that while residents in large Canadian and American cities are regularly subjected to street violence, no tourist was targeted or injured during months of Oaxacan unrest.

The excerpts from the City Page referenced above are not from a Oaxaca newspaper, but rather from The Toronto Star, April 8, 2007, in the midst of arguably one of the most tranquil and peaceful family weekends of the year, Easter.

There are many opinions as to why false and misleading information is disseminated about occurrences in Third World countries, and in this case Mexico (more specifically Oaxaca), while fact based reports from First World countries in the Western Hemisphere, take Canada for example, do not result in, for one thing, government advisories.

Western governments have a history of paternalistic attitudes towards their citizens dating to the period of colonization. It continues to date. Perhaps more importantly, during the 20th century civil liability has become a concern, more so in the US than in Canada in terms of claims for monetary damages arising out of allegations of negligence perpetrated by governments against citizens: “You had information about civil unrest and the possibility of injury, so why didn’t you warn me against traveling to Oaxaca?”

What is a Western consul, resident in Oaxaca, to do or recommend to his or her principals in Mexico City, Washington or Ottawa? Especially when local and international media, each with its own agenda, report incidents of unrest and at times violence? Does governmental due diligence include checking the veracity of reports of targeting or injury to tourists, and when there are no such reports, ought they include some such reference to their findings in their warnings? Should this writer have not stated that no tourist was injured, when in fact there was a report of a tourist who elected to walk alongside a march with his video camera, apparently inadvertently receiving a bit of mace or pepper spray in his face, then smiling and laughing it off when questioned by reporters? Should we demand more particulars from our governments upon which we are expected to rely? Should we perhaps request comparative statistical data when advisories are issued, regarding injury to innocents in Canadian and American cities of comparable size to that of Oaxaca?

Mexico, with different legal and political systems both historically and in contemporary times, would appear to have a different attitude towards protecting its citizenry traveling abroad, at least to Canada and the US, and certainly the federal government does not appear to have the same legal liability concerns, not having developed a British common law system which gives residents significant rights regarding claims of negligence.

Perhaps the Mexican government should begin to issue travel advisories based upon reviewing newspapers, wire service and internet reports, and first hand accounts of violence against citizens of Western cities:

“Violence erupted against innocent people, some of whom may have been Mexican tourists, in at least five separate incidents over Easter weekend in Toronto. We urge our citizens to exercise extreme caution should they dare to maintain their existing travel plans to that part of Canada.”

While arguably misleading, at least the facts would be accurately stated. We would then see how much pressure would be brought to bear by Canada, and how fast, upon Mexico to retract its warning. The Mexican government would then have received a good lesson on how to use diplomacy to convince foreign governments to be more detailed, accurate and cautious in issuing advisories.

Before the critics and skeptics jump on the obvious gap in reasoning and fallaciousness of the analogy, they ought to research whether or not the Mexican government issued travel advisories regarding Toronto, Ontario or Canada, in the face of the two incidents bearing the closest similarity in recent memory to the Oaxacan unrest…the Oka reserve uprising and the Dudley George killing with associated conflict.

The foregoing should not be relied upon by anyone considering traveling outside of his or her home country, and the article’s intent is not to influence anyone’s travel plans nor to opine regarding any government laws, rules, regulations, policies or procedures.

  • Author’s update: Since the foregoing article contains historical information, I’ve taken the liberty of examining more recent news pages, the front page of the same Toronto Star, online version, for the Greater Toronto Area, from May 28 and May 31, 2009, and for April 17, 2010. Dare to compare with headlines from mainstream Oaxaca media? Consider the following:

May 28, 2009:

• “Teen guilty in rugby death”

• “Body of missing teen found in Toronto harbour” [he had been in an argument the night he went missing, so accidental drowning is not suspecte]

• “New Tori murder charge” [“An 18-year-old woman charged in the disappearance of eight-year-old Tori Stafford saw her charges upgraded to first degree murder Thursday]”

May 31, 2009:

• “Suspect in bludgeoning slaying was on probation”

• “York U. student’s body pulled from Lake Ontario”

• “OPP [Ontario Provincial Police] officer charged with breach of trust”

April 17, 2010:

• “Complaints overwhemlm human rights watchdog”

• “Yonge St. [main commercial thoroughfare in the city] remains closed after wall collapses”

• “Belleville police pull woman’s remains out of Moira River”

• “Suspect and child in custody after morning attack”

• “OPP [Ontario Provincial Police] union wants to know why cocaine charge dropped [against husband of politician]”

• “Suspect sought in elevator fire”

• “Pickering man stabbed in chest during domestic dispute”

Alvin Starkman operates Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com ). Alvin has a masters in anthropology and a law degree. He was a litigator in Toronto until taking early retirement. He and his family were frequent visitors to Oaxaca between 1991 and when they became permanent residents in 2004. Alvin reviews restaurants, writes about cultural traditions in Oaxaca, consults to documentary film companies, and tours couples and families to the villages.

Posted by titosarah 16:35 Comments (0)

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