From January 2006 I am spending 9 months working on a voluntary art project for the Artcorps in Guatemala. I am working for Fundación Riecken, an NGO who are constructing libraries in Honduras and Guatemala. I will be artist-in-residence at libraries in Chiché and Zacualpa, in the Quiché region of Guatemala. I also plan to do a little travelling along the way...

Saturday, December 23, 2006


I have just spent the most amazing, crazy, fun-filled, sun-kissed three weeks in México being expertly hosted by new friends and companions everywhere I went. I took a list of telephone numbers of friends of friends and, you know me, was not shy to introduce myself! I landed in the sprawling behemoth that is Mexico City and easily filled a week taking in art and culture, which I was so thirsty for. There are apparently 400 museums in Mexico City, otherwise known as DF (Distrito Federal). I think I managed six or seven and left with a shortlist of the most important ones still lacking for next time! I was taken out every day/night by a succession of extremely amiable, generous, wonderful people who took me to great places and hung out with me. One week was not long enough; I left with several faces still unknown to me having courted new telephonic/electronic relationships. Next time! I stayed right in the centre of the capital, a stone`s throw form the Zocalo, the main square. My first day was the 1st of December, the day the new president acceded to parliament, a potentially explosive event which has long been anticipated since the so-called “fraud” election in September. Whether rigged or not, the Zocalo filled with tens of thousands of protestors who marched peacefully through the city centre dispelling fears of unrest.
From DF I took a quick hop to Puebla, famous for its talavera ceramic tradition and mole poblano (very spicey chicken dish cooked in a labour-intensive sauce of many ground ingredients including chocolate – interesting!). In fact, most dished in Mexico are laden with chillie and the array of different species of the pepper is quite astonishing.

My next destination was Oaxaca, a beautiful colonial town which has been ravaged by demonstrations and fierce clashes between protestors and police and has effectively been a no-go zone for six months. The main square had been seized by various popular movements, who set up encampments amid the colonial arches and elegant trees of the plaza, attempting to displace the very unpopular governor of Oaxaca. After months of violence, including deaths, the situation has calmed, even though they never succeeded in dislodging the governor. I arrived a few days after the town had officially been declared safe to find the main square still a campsite, but this time inhabited by police. They were crawling all over the centre, their riot gear laid out ready for action, but most people seemed to be continuing with their everyday lives. I was prepared for what to expect in Oaxaca after seeing the astonishing sight of a whole street in Mexico City shut off and turned over to a makeshift campsite of Oaxacan activists. Its semi-permanence lent the appearance of a cross between a shanty town and a hard-core travellers` get-up. Already astonished by the fact that the police allow them to occupy such a large central area of the city, you can imagine my incredulity when I found out that after the election, 10 odd kilometers of the main artery into DF were occupied; a mini city of protestors camping on the equivalent of the A4 for a month!

I stayed in two beautiful houses in Oaxaca, one belonging to Maria Teresa who was very sweet and hospitable and the other Dilip, now ex-pat Oaxacan. I still carry the image of Dilip leaving London ten years ago with his rucksack on his back announcing that he was going to find his destiny. Find his destiny he did, in the form of the gorgeous Meche and now they have a country house with commanding views across the landscape, two boys running around Dilip`s impressive orchard.

From Oaxaca town I took a beautiful journey though the mountains to the Oaxacan coast, to the heavenly Puerto Escondido. I had heard so many recommendations about Puerto and they were all true! It is a beach paradise with coves, bays, long beaches of white sand and spectacular sunsets. I was looked after by the lovely Helmut, who owns a lively restaurant bar which turned out to be a prefect hub to meet all the locals, who showed me the fun side of Puerto. It is a party town, fuelled by mescal (Oaxacan firewater made from the agave cactus) and I made the most of it, especially after teaming up with my new adventure teammates from Italy. We had fun. By day; swimming, drinking piña coladas on the beach, watching the sun set over the ocean and by night; dancing, making friends and watching the sun come up over the ocean…!

My dream which has been brewing for my whole year in Guatemala of the true “Carribean” beach experience, after the utter let-down in Belize in October amid tropical storms and torrential rain, was satisfied in Puerto Escondido, albeit not quite the Carribean! Eventually I had to tear myself away, but the fun did not stop there. I met my crazy Italian mates in San Cristobal de las Casas and continued the party. San Cristobal is a wonderful place. It is capital of the region of Chiapas, which used to be part of Guatemala and continues to feel like it; full of indigenous culture. I found myself in the company of yet more Italians, all working for human rights organizations, which are numerous there partly due to the presence of the Zapatista movement. With Christmas approaching fast, very sadly my trip had to come to an end, abruptly it seems, as I feel I have had a marvellous yet tantalizing taste of this incredibly diverse and vast country. ¡Hasta la proxima vez!


At 11:59 am, Blogger Martin said...

Mmmm, Puerto Escondido is indeed fab! Very chilled - did you discover the cafe up a dirt track, between the town and surf beaches? French toast with tropical fruit every morning - yum!

xx M


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