June 25, 2006

Before another month passes, a little on Mexico

Category: Debian,Tech,Travel — Biella @ 7:09 am

Last month I went to Mexico to attend Debconf6 and then I traveled with 4 geeks to Oaxaca. Here are a few photos from the trip, which was quite lovely, though I stalled writing anything about it here because I was thrown into a strom of sickness during my last week there and into my first week here.

I have been to Mexico a few times before though usually in passing or in Baja, which is somewhat nice but desolate. This was the first time I had any sustained exposure to Mexico and it was quite nice. Some of my favorite things about the country and my visit are perhaps a little odd but they are what took me in and here are some of them…

For example, during Debconf proper, I feel in love with the following reptile and very surprisingly, because, when it comes to animals, I usually like the soft and cuddly and not the scaly and spiny. But…. this lizard was…. special. Here is how I found him: We were eating at a restaurant after a visit to some ruins and there we found this little guy caged at the back of the restaurant. I was more than a little miffed that he was trapped (and by butting his head against the cage, he clearly was saying I WANT OUT) and so was about to pull a “PETA move” and just let him out. But I decided that was not such a good idea so instead I went over to the owners to ask why the little one was caged. In answer to my query, they promptly pulled him out and told me he first that he was a chameleon (which does not seem right to me) and was usually free to roam but when there are a lot of folks (as there were) they lock him up.

He plopped the little one on my arm and alas, what I pleasantly found out was that a lizard can act an awful lot like a dog. He LOVED to be pet and basically had a look of all-out-pleasure when you stroked his back. And at times, with a particularily good stroke, he would even subtly smile and flutter his hind leg a little just like a doggie.

Aside from a special dog-like reptile, there were many other things that I loved about Mexico. The food at the market was divine, divine, especially the corn smut a.k.a huitlacoche and all the salsas were better than you could imagine. It is tragic that every city does not have a local market with such divine food.

The architecture of Oaxaca was especially stuning as was the whole city center. It reminded me of viejo San Juan in Puerto Rico but the buildings were a little lower (apparently because of earthquakes) and the environment was dryer and more expansive. Our hostel was courtyard style (as were many houses there) and I think the courtyard should be revived as the defacto style for housing as this is probably one of the most enticing and smart architectural styles ever (at least in warm places). While a home is suppsed to provide shelter to enclose, the courtyard brings some of the outside inside and some of the inside outside.

While in Oaxaca we met some folks from espora, walked a lot in the city, met up with other Debian folks traveling about, and cleaned out Vagrant’s ear which was truly … well I won’t go into that. We also drove for a few hours up to the mountains for a few nice hikes. The town hoped we happy trip and I think we did.

Mexico city, by a number of measures, is one of the largest in the world and I unfortunately only got to see the Zocalo area as well as the subway. The center was quite impressive and especially nice before a thunderous storm One night at the Zocalo we happened upon a free concert, the lineup including the Tijuana Nortec Collective.

One of the most dynamite parts of Mexico City is its impressive and I mean impressive subway system. In a nutshell, the system is large, clean, efficient, cheap, and quiet (thanks to thick and black rubber tires). The trains come quickly, ferrying the millions of riders who pay 20 cents for a ride on a lovely bright orange train. Every time I rode it, without fail, a vendor entered the car, loaded with a backpack that doubled as a radio/stereo, who was selling pirated music. I appreciated the sample and bought one disc chock full of mp3s.

Like most urban trains, the riders are silent and I have always wondered why this is so. When I go to PR, I ride the busses much more and there, as in the states on the busses, there seems to be more open flow of chatter. Perhaps it is because trains are quite comfortable and they lull already tired riders into a state of quite contemplation. Who knows.

So these are some of the things that I liked about Mexico but perhaps the most exciting part about the country was the clear political heatwave passing through, just as it is with much of Latin America. In the zocalo of Mexico City there were various stands protesting the attacks in Atenco, as well as general protests against neoliberal policies. The city of Oaxca was also filled to the gills with protesting teachers, demanding a pay raise. Thousands of them were camped out all over the city center, which is apparently a year rite. Sadly, in the last week the police broke up the protest, violently

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