Oaxaca, Mexico:  Independence Day

Days later

Remember hearing it comes from little bugs? The red dye for which Mexico was renowned? Yes, well, I saw what looked like an art installation through a doorway in the centro. A wonderful red wall with a bench with strange things on it and some sort of rack behind, next to the wall. Closer inspection showed each was a cactus with a mealy bug type of insect growing on it. That is the bug, a cochilero, from which cochineal is made.


 One word for 15th September


There should just be two words ‘Independance Day’. But no. ‘Police’ is the word.

The central area is almost surrounded by them. Multitudes of police are standing around, in groups, being driven in utes and large trucks with long benches either side of the tray, watching. All are heavily armed. All types are around tonight, the local or town ones, the state ones, federal and I’ve missed two types. Yes, there are 5 types of police in Mexico. Each has a distinct uniform and these range from white shirts and blue pants through to an all blue uniform and to camouflage. 



 Many are wearing heavy duty vests. No riot shields that I’ve seen. One dog but only one so far and it is circling on the end of its tightly held chain, acting slightly mad. For an apparently safe tourist area the numbers here tonight leave me a little uncomfortable. 

I’m in a cafe, Brújula, a block from the zocalo and waiting for another intercambio, a woman this time. I’ve already tried to pick up the wrong woman so now I’m just sitting, waiting for her and hoping the description I have of her is sufficient.


 A few metres north of here, on this pedestrian-only street is a metal detector. Crowds coming south, towards the Zocalo, are directed through it and their bags checked. The joke is I walked here from the eastern side and there no barriers or metal detectors, yet. 

None of the cops has objected to my taking photos of them. Surprisingly. I wasn’t game to push my luck but the town is being very heavily policed for the Independence Day celebration, for the shout of ‘Viva Mexico’ at 11pm. Not sure I’ll stay. Given the numbers of people visible near the Zocalo already, 6 hours prior to that time, and the number of police here, plus knowing of the ‘no shout’ protest expected in Mexico City, I’m guessing it may not be the best place in town. 

And no. I won’t miss out. The size and volume of the explosives was astounding. They are to be set off at about 11.15, according to the policeman standing dangerously close to them as they were being readied. They will be readily audible from here, a km or so away.

  While waiting for some action I had a piece of maize on a stick. Roasted over coals, slathered with mayonnaise, lemon juice dripped on it, rolled in cheese and with chile on top optional. Rather nice. With so much mayo and a bit of lemon juice and cheese it had to be. The maize was like a very old corn cob but with larger individual bits. Dry. Not as good as Tasmanian corn. Anyhow, on a stick it was quite nice for a change. 

  My first love here remains quesillo, that wonderful salted stringy rope cheese. Sometimes called Oaxacan cheese apparently. Hmmm. My soul for a lifetime supply? Especially now I’ve found a better shop. The taste is even better. Perhaps it’s the double cream variety. Don’t know.

9.12pm Wesday 15th September

And it’s raining like hell. The gentle rain when I was Zocalo is now much heavier. Tough for those wanting to shout ‘Viva Mexico’ as only those in the official party or able to fit on the steps of the cathedral will be protected.


I was sitting opposite the entry in Brújula, one of the trendy cafes in the centro. I like its ambience. I was not there for the coffee but, I’ve had much worse in Oaxaca.     

Still no Luvia. She is shorter than my shorter teacher and wears glasses. I don’t know anything else about how she looks. She speaks Zapotecan (first language), Spanish and english.

I left an hour after we were due to meet. I’m not especially bothered and hope we can meet at our next scheduled appointment, on Thursday. I’d love to be able to help her and like the idea of a different person to talk to in Spanish. I’m too readily thrown still. I just don’t know enough words and all it takes is a few mumbled or new words and I get confused. I like listening to the radio but understand little and I like TV. Dammed thing is on strike again. I don’t know why and it was obvious Maria Antonio knows less than i do about fixing such equipment. 

Telecom companies

I’ve decided they are all confusing. How could I have know that after you pay your magic $m299 for a ‘bajo30’ plan you text 5050 and then message back the plan you want? So I spent $m300 on my first day here and got about 230Mb of data. This time, thanks to Alfonso, I am on the plan, ‘bajo30’. That should see me out. Telcel gave me a $m150 bonus! I like to think of it as compensation for deception. But, I know that’s how all telecoms, all I’ve encountered so far, are. Each has a different system built on a plan to confuse you by obfuscation. It worked. Once again I lost! 

Back to the celebrations

Two enormous stages on either side of the Zocalo, where the daily flag raising occurs. Wow. Given the relatively small size of the overly loud sound system, wow. To be missed for pleasure’s sake. Yes! I need my remaining hearing. All of it.

Near the Zocalo was a long queue. I wondered why. It was for ATMs. Must be the particular bank as I’ve used one elsewhere with no wait.
The crowd in the street heading to the zocalo was growing rapidly, still with 5 or 6 hours to go.

 Some of the street sellers, a little further away, were either quite dispirited or resting before a savage onslaught. I wasn’t sure which!


And the beautiful house colours get me every time! 



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