The second day of Mexico Cooks!' February 2016 tour to Oaxaca was devoted to visiting Ocotlán de Morelos, less than an hour south of Oaxaca. The small city of Ocotlán is the home of indigenous Zapotec artist Rodolfo Morales (May 8, 1925-January 30, 2001). In addition to working at his art, Rodolfo Morales devoted much of his later life to restoring historic buildings in Ocotlán and to working with the painters Rufino Tamayo and Francisco Toledo to further artistic achievement in Oaxaca. For more than ten years before his death in 2001, Morales was considered to be one of the two greatest living artists from the state. The other, Francisco Toledo, is still living. The painting (oil on linen) above is a portrait of Morales's mother.
Family kitchen, Casa Rodolfo Morales. The Morales home is still open as a museum, and tourists are welcome to visit.
At the Ocotlán Friday outdoor market, our group first tasted tejate, a cold and refreshing chocolate drink iconic to Oaxaca. It's made with several ingredients (cacao, rosita (aka flor de cacao), and the ground seed of the mamey fruit, among others, and mixed with the bare hand until thick foam rises to the top of the liquid. This vendor has covered the top of her huge vessel of tejate with plastic.
Some of the ingredients for tejate: on the flat basket, a goodly amount of rosita. Below the rosita, mamey fruit seeds.
Mamey fruit with the seed already removed, displayed for sale. This creamy, sweet fruit looks like a little brown football and tastes like a baked sweet potato. Delicious!
Our group had heard about the Ocotlán indoor market food stand called "La Cocina de Frida" (Frida's Kitchen). The owner's stock in trade is her strong resemblance to painter Frida Kahlo! Click on the photo to enlarge it; you can see the owner, on the left, standing at the stove. We were intrigued and decided to eat there.
Her resemblance to Frida Kahlo is extraordinary. The food didn't live up to our hopes, but we did have a good time.
Our other main goal in visiting Ocotlán was to meet the Hermanas Águilar: we spent time with gifted sister potters Josefina and Irene and visited Guillermina's home as well. Their talleres (workshops) are in three consecutive houses near the entrance to the town. Our first stop was with Sra. Josefina Águilar, whose work has been collected since the 1975, when Nelson Rockefeller bought some of her pieces for his own notable collection of Latin American folk art.
Sra. Josefina Águilar continues to work clay, here forming the masa (clay 'dough') that will become the charming and original figures that she calls muñecas (dolls). Diabetes has made her blind, but she still makes her muñecas by feel. Doña Josefina is one of four daughters of potters Isaura Alcantara and Jesús Águilar; Guillermina, Josefina, Irene, and Concepción are all master potters.
Typical clay village figures by doña Josefina Águilar. The tallest of these measures approximately 10" high. Photo courtesy Liveauctioneers, 2013.
A relative paints careful detail on a small clay figure in doña Josefina's sunlit patio.
Juan Jesús García Águilar, doña Josefina's grandson, made this 6" high dancer with the fabulous sloe-eyes. The brilliantly talented young man is the fourth generation of potters in the Águilar family. Please click on the photo to enlarge it for a better look at the detail. Mexico Cooks! collection.
A pair of paper maché and bamboo mojigangas (giant dance puppets) created by doña Irene Águilar Alcantara. These are meant to be worn on the shoulders of adult dancers; they stand about fifteen feet high once attached to the dancer! The soft, loose fabric arms twist around and around as the dancer gyrates. Doña Irene also makes clay figures and other artistic work, but she creates these mojigangas by special request.
This video will take you right to the heart of Oaxaca City--and make you want to dance along with the mojigangas! We wended our way down the street in Oaxaca along with a wedding calenda (street dance/celebration) and had a marvelous time. Mexico Cooks! can make it happen for your group, too--just ask!
By the end of our long day in Ocotlán de Morelos, we were ready for some down-time at our hotel. After a good night's sleep, we were ready to hit the road again. Next week: Day Three, with more adventures and some delicious food.
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