Friday, May 29, 2015

MEXICO: ITS FOODS AND CULINARY DELIGHTS


Chiles en Nogada:  An iconic culinary dish of Mexico


                 Chiles, chiles, chiles!  What an overwhelming selection!


WELCOME TO THE TRADITIONAL FOODS AND CULINARY DELIGHTS  OF MEXICO!


                            

Contemporary Mexican food as we know it today is a rich blend of indigenous and Spanish cuisines. When Hernán Cortés, the Spanish explorer, arrived in Mexico in 1519 he found types of foods, fruits, vegetables, and wild animals that Europeans had never seen before. The food of the ancient Mayan, Mixtec, Olmec, Toltec, Inca, and Aztec, although separated by time and distance, all existed within a common agricultural universe which was created by centuries of conquest and commerce.  Cortés found that the pre-Columbian people of Mexico, including the Aztecs, ate such things as mangoes, pineapples, avocados, tomatoes, coconuts, and basic staples like maize, beans, squash, and hot chiles. The Spaniards must have been totally amazed by the rich and varied native foods they encountered!



One of Diego Rivera's iconic paintings portraying an indigenous worker in the agave fields.  Agave nectar (more accurately called agave syrup) is a sweetener commercially produced from several species of agave, including Agave tequilana (blue agave) and Agave salmiana. Most agave syrup comes from Mexico and South Africa.


The Aztecs made use of the wild plants and animals present in the large valley where they made their home and which is now the home of large and sprawling Mexico City.  They also used some of the most unusual and advanced systems of agriculture found at that time which was called Chinampa.  The word "chinampas" which means "floating' gardens" refers to the small, stationary, artificial islands of land which the Aztecs constructed for agricultural purposes on the freshwater lake which surrounded the ancient city of Tenochtitlan (and now known as Mexico City).  



Artist rendition of "farmland" around Mexico City

An artist rendering of the chinampas, floating gardens, of the pre Hispanic city of Tenochtitlan in the Valley of Mexico (now known as Mexico City)



     
    It's all about maize, corn, and the humble tortilla which gives us these delicious Mexican foods! 



Tacos or enchiladas?  What a difficult choice! 



         Here's another difficult choice:


Image result for images of tamales


 Tamales in corn husks or banana leaves?  





















This ancient agricultural system using chinampas is believed to have produced a great abundance of vegetables, fruits, and flowers which included corn (maize), squash, chiles, and tomatoes, all native foods commonly found in Mexico and the Valley of Mexico. In addition to the ancient Chinampa system the pre-Hispanic cultures also developed and widely used the MILPA concept of agriculture.



The ancient milpa field concept, with a variety of co-existing and symbiotic plants, is still a viable agricultural practice in Mexico  


Mexico has long relied on the milpa or mixed crop method that planted corn, beans, squash, and other symbiotic plants (usually chiles) in the same field. Traditionally, a milpa plot (from the Nahuatl word for "corn field") is planted with maize (corn), beans, and squash (which are known as "The Three Sisters"), but might also include a variety of other plants. This technology meant that the same crops could be planted over and over without depleting the soils nutrients because the joint plantings enriched the soil in an amazingly symbiotic way. 

The "Three Sisters" of a milpa plot are squash, climbing beans, and corn as depicted in the following artist renderings










Frijoles de Olla:  Beans are a part of the daily diet in Mexico as much as tortillas. There are endless ways to prepare beans, but almost all start from the same base known as an olla or bean pot.  Frijoles de Olla is similar to a thick soup with an extraordinary flavor.  Find your own preferred recipe on the net and go for it!  



      
Milpa farming is still thriving in Mexico including the Yucatan Peninsula 


Both the Aztecs and the Mayan used the milpa farming system where herbs, chilies, squash, beans, and corn created their own mutually beneficial universe. The beans would support the cornstalks and add nitrogen to the soil, the large leaves of the squash would help to conserve moisture by shading the root system, and the chilies and herbs provided some deterrent to animals and insects while they allowed birds to eat and deposit seeds in other areas. The milpa, in the estimation of H. Garrison Wilkes, a maize researcher at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, "is one of the most successful human inventions ever created."



This is one of my favorite artistic portraits of indigenous people working a milpa field


As the Aztecs expanded their territory they also imported foods from other regions including the tropical areas of Mexico.  For these and other reasons, the foods that the ancient peoples of central Mexico enjoyed were some of the richest and most varied in the world.  And aren't we thankful that we have benefited from this truly wonderful legacy!  


Because Mexican cuisine is such a unique blend of pre-Hispanic and European traditions, UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared the culinary traditions of Mexico a world cultural patrimony and on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.  BRAVO MEXICO!


The following link takes you to the video which was presented to UNESCO  for this award and is definitely worth watching:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhZ-EKPPQkU



             
An indigenous woman with a basket of corn is certainly iconic!


A SAMPLE OF PRE-HISPANIC/CONTEMPORARY MEXICAN FOODS 
                                           
Many people outside of Mexico may not know or understand what makes up real traditional Mexican foods.  The reality is Mexico has a rich culinary tradition - much of it coming out of hundreds or even thousands of years of history.  So what was eaten in the pre-Hispanic world of the Aztec empire and what is still eaten daily in today's Mexico are often the same with the possible difference of how it is prepared. 

Many of the staples of the Aztec diet are still familiar in Mexico today which include, but are not limited to the following: maize (corn), frijoles (beans), aguacates (avocados), calabaza (squash), chiles (aka chilies), jitomates (red tomatoes), tomates (green tomatoes), and nopal cactus (aka prickly pear or tuna cactus). And certainly not to be left out or forgotten is cacao (or chocolate).


     
Chiles (Spanish) are also called Chili or Chilli in the indigenous Nahautl language 





A molcajete (mo̞lkaˈxe̞te̞ or mol-cah-hay’-tay) Mexican Spanish from Nahuatlmulcazitl is a stone tool, the traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle used for grinding various food products including chiles. The molcajete was used by pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cultures, including the Aztec and Maya, stretching back several thousand years.






 Cacoa,  the chocolate bean, was called Xocoatl by the Aztecs, and was used in the preparation of the royal beverage for the rulers of their empire




A sampling of some of the most common fresh chiles found in modern-day Mexico
          



Another favorite and iconic dish in Mexico is the chile relleno that originated in the city of Puebla. It consists of a stuffed, roasted, fresh poblano pepper which is sometimes substituted with non-traditional Hatch chile, Anaheim, pasilla or even jalapeño chili pepper.

       
  
Calabasa, or squash, comes in many varieties and was a main staple of the pre-Hispanic people



What a stylish presentation of squash! 












One of my favorite juicy summer fruits is called "tunas" or nopal cactus "pears" but don't eat or touch the spines!  
                          


       
Maize, or corn, was and still is the main staple in Mexican cuisine





Without corn we would not have tacos, enchiladas, tamales or a myriad of other Mexican culinary delights! 




The aguacate, or avocado, another of my favorite foods native to Mexico,  has also given us guacamole!   Bravo!   



Guacamole is an avocado-based dip or salad that began with the Aztecs in Mexico. In addition to its use in modern Mexican cuisine it has also become part of American cuisine as a dip, condiment and salad ingredient.  I don't know about you, but I say yum!


In addition, the following are more of the foods and ingredients which originated in Mexico and which are commonly consumed not only in Mexico, cut worldwide:  The names of these various foods are originally from the Aztec Nahuatl language and examples include: Vanilla, Guava, Chayote, Epazote, Camote, Jícama, Tejocote, Tenochtitlan, Zapote, Mamey Zapote, and many varieties of modern beans, peppers, and chiles.  Very impressive!


  
Zapote is the name used for several common tropical fruits in Mexico and Mesoamerica and regardless of its varied Latin botanical names are always known with its common name of Nahuatl origin, Zapote.




    
More colorful chiles which add flavor and spice, but not always heat, to the cusine of Mexico.


Wild pavos (turkeys) and perros (dogs) were both domesticated by the Aztec for human consumption.  The diet of the Aztec, however, consisted primarily of fruits, vegetables, and grains. It is estimated that the pre-Hispanic people of Mexico subsisted on approximately 1,200 calories a day. For a small people with a small caloric intake they were certainly able to build some large and impressive structures including their pyramids!  Only on special occasions was the average Aztec able to enjoy a "carnivore fix" which could also include native deer, rabbit, duck, and other birds.  


Gall-dindi.jpg
           
The indigenous Nahuatl name for turkey is Guajolote and the Spanish name is Pavo.


 
Another iconic dish in Mexico is CARNITAS made from the meat of the pig. Carnitas, literally "little meats," is a dish originating from the state of Michoacán. Carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork in oil or preferably lard until tender. Scrumptous!  The turkey lucked out when the meat of choice became pork!  




Carnitas tacos are definitely a gourmet treat in Mexico.

NOTE:  Nahuatl has given the English language some words for indigenous animals, fruits, vegetables, and tools. The most prominent are chocolate, tomato, coyote, avocado, and chile or chili.  Not so common, but oh so good, is the delicacy huitlacoche (aka corn smut).  Chiclets gum's name comes from the Nahuatl word chicle!  You never know when this information might come in handy, but there you are!



                                              
                                               HUITLACOCHE

Definition: A fungus that grows on ears of corn and referred to as "smut" (what a charming word!)

Origins: Huitlacoche dates back to the Aztecs who enjoyed this naturally-occurring corn fungus as part of their diet. They would use the corn and the attached fungus in tamales and stews. The fungus grows on all above-ground parts of corn species. It is considered a delicacy not only in Mexico, but by other North American native peoples and this blogger!




   
The selection of chiles in Mexico makes the cuisine of Mexico wonderful and special!


   
Chiles are dried for preservation and then rehydrated for the preparation of foods and sauces

FYI: How to spell the word chile/chili/chilie: http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2013/09/chili-chile-or-chilli.html

From the dozens of chile varieties grown and enjoyed throughout the country, to the sweet and delicious delights of chocolate, ancient Mexico has given much to the world. There is a vast variety of pre-Hispanic foods including lesser known items such as amaranth, nopal cactus, chayote, chia, epazote, hoja santa, maguey cactus, and tamales, all of which have their history in the ancient cultures of Mexico and Mesoamerica. 

And least I forget to include the obvious, the basis of native Mexican cooking was, and still is, corn and corn-made tortillas which are the most typical of all Mexican food. For me it would be impossible to imagine modern-day cuisine without the contribution of pre-Hispanic foods.  Gracias!  


         
Indigenous women still grind maize and prepare tortillas in the time honored manner of their predecesors 





Tortillas are the main staple in Mexican meals and consummed in huge quantities on a daily basis




Grinding corn and preparing hand-made tortillas is as ancient as the Aztec culture of Mexico




I don't know about you, but I salivate just looking at these tacos!


POSTSCRIPT:  There are over a hundred varieties of chiles commonly used in Mexican cooking ranging in size, shape and flavor strength. They add color and spice to many dishes. Chiles may be red, green, yellow, orange, or burgundy. 

Some of the most common Mexican chiles include, but are certainly not limited to:

Poblano-fresh or Ancho-dried, medium
Cascabel, hot and pungent
Cayenne, not cultivated in Latin America, dried, hot
Chiltecpin, bird chilies, fresh and dried, hot
Fresno, fresh, mild
Mirasol yellow–fresh or Guajillo red-dried Habanero, Scotch bonnet, very hot when fresh
Jalapeno fresh, chipotle dried, hot
Pasilla usually dried, mild
Serrano, fresh, hot





 POSTCRIPT NO. 2:

I do in fact know that tequila is technically not a food.  However, I think it is important to mention that since it's origin is from a plant and with the normally included lime we might need to reconsider ......or not.  Here is some interesting stuff to add to your knowledge considering this liquid "non-food." 



Agave tequilana0.jpg

Tequila is produced from the blue agave which is native to Jalisco, Mexico

Agave tequilana, commonly called blue agave (agave azul) or tequila agave, is an agave plant that is native to the state of Jalisco, Mexico.  It is an important economic product of Jalisco due to its role as the base ingredient of tequila. The high production of sugars, mostly fructose, in the core of the plant is the main characteristic that makes it suitable for the preparation of alcoholic beverages.
The plant prefers altitudes of more than 5,000 feet and grows in rich and sandy soils. Blue agave plants grow into large succulents, with spiky fleshy leaves, that can reach over seven feet in height.  On the highway to or from Guadalajara, the state capital of Jalisco, one passes what seems like miles and miles of blue agave fields.  Quite a sight!



MY FINAL POSTCRIPT (I promise!):

The following dishes are some of my favorite Mexican culinary delights which definitely brings delight to this bloger.  Buen provecho (bon appétit) and enjoy!



Chiles en nogada are probably my most favorite of all the wonderful culinary offerings found in Mexico. They are truly unique, delicious, and beautiful. The name comes from the Spanish word for the walnut tree which is nogal. It consists of poblano chiles filled with picadillo (a mixture usually containing shredded meat, aromatics, fruits and spices), topped with a walnut-based cream sauce called nogada, and pomegranate seeds, which gives it the three colors of the Mexican flag: green for the chili, white for the nut sauce, and red for the pomegranate. Not only does Chiles en nogada make your taste buds sing, they also makes you feel a sense of patriotism. How many foods can you say do that!


                               
One of my favorite dishes in Mexico is a seafood platter with fresh ocean offerings including, but not limited to, shrimp, mussels, clams, squid, and octopus.




And I simply adore ceviche!  Ceviche is a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of the Americas, including Mexico, Central, and South America. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with a combination of diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and chiles.  



                 
After seafood dishes, I simply adore sopas (soups) like pozole which is a hominy based soup. Pozole is a traditional pre-Columbian soup or stew from Mexico. The main ingredient in pozole is hominy which consists of dried maize kernels which have been treated with an alkali in a process called nixtamalization. Pozole includes a meat, usually pork, chili peppers, and other seasonings and garnish such as cabbage, salsa and limes. It is a very typical Mexicsn dish and found in various states including Sinaloa, Michoacán, Guerrero, Zacatecas, Jalisco, Morelos, State of Mexico and Distrito Federal.




Another great favorite is tortilla soup, or sopa de tortilla, which is a Mexican traditional soup made of fried corn tortilla pieces which are submerged in a broth of tomato, garlic, onion, chile de árbol, and epazote. The soup is often garnished with avocado, cilantro, limes, and white cheese. My husband swears I have had more servings of tortilla soup than anyone else in the country including nationals. I think he might be right!


YOU ARE INVITED TO VIEW MY POSTING "MEXICO: TRADITIONAL INDIGENOUS MARKETS" WHICH HAS BEEN PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED AND WHICH COMPLIMENTS THIS POSTING.  GO TO:   traditional-indigenous-markets.html




I remember hearing many years ago that a picture is worth a thousand words. Those words definitely contributed to and inspired me in the creation of MEXICO AND BEYOND: LAURA'S PHOTO JOURNEY. I hope you have enjoyed this visit to the foods and culinary delights of Mexico and I look forward to seeing you again in the near future. Until then, gracias and safe travels! Laura

                                 Memories are just a click away!

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Friday, May 8, 2015

OCOTLAN DE MORELOS, OAXACA: MARKET DAY



One of the highlights of visiting Oaxaca, both the city and the state, is a chance to visit one or more of the weekly traditional indigenous markets (mercados) in the outlying pueblos which surround the city of Oaxaca. Our favorite weekly mercado is located in the town of Ocotlán de Morelos. “Ocotlan” is approximately 22 miles south of the city of Oaxaca and is easily reached by either second class buses or collectivo taxis from Oaxaca City. In addition to the main attraction which is the huge Friday Mercado, Ocotlan has a beautifully restored church and monastery on an attractive main plaza and opportunities to view and purchase some of the best native art and crafts in the region. It is this combination of wonderful offerings which makes Ocotlan the town we returned to again and again while living in Oaxaca City.


But before getting lost in the lively Friday market, I would like to share some background information on the pueblo of Ocotlan de Morelos which I believe makes a visit to a new place more interesting and meaningful.


Ocotlán de Morelos is a town and municipality in the state of Oaxaca about 22 miles (35 km) south of the center of the city of Oaxaca. The area was a significant population center at the time of the Spanish Conquest and for that reason an important Dominican monastery was established here in the 16th century. The complex still exists with the church, the Temple of Santo Domingo, still being used for worship and the cloister area used as a museum.

If you must take a peak at the photograph album for this posting here is the link:

LINK TO OCOTLAN DE MORELOS ALBUM





The city's main attraction is the Temple and Ex-convent of Santo Domingo de Guzmán. The complex was constructed in various stages between the 16th and 19th centuries. The construction of the monastery was halted on several occasions due the lack of manpower, due to the discovery of mines nearby such as Santa Catarina. The main vault, apse, choir and sacristy of the church were not finished until 1669. The pillars of the cloister were begun at this time as well, but were never finished.


The name Ocotlan is from the indigenous Nahuatl language which means "among the ocote trees” (the ocote tree is commonly known as the Montezuma pine and is a species of conifer which is native to Mexico and Central America). The appendage "de Morelos" is added in honor of José María Morelos y Pavón (José María Teclo Morelos y Pavón was a Mexican Roman Catholic priest and revolutionary rebel leader who led the Mexican War of Independence movement). During the colonial period the area was known as Santo Domingo Ocotlán due to the Dominican friars who built a monastery here dedicated to Saint Dominic (Spanish: Santo Domingo). The Zapotec name for the area is "Lachiroo" which means "large valley. Got it? Hold on as there’s more!












The municipal palace has a traditional Neo-Classic facade built with pink stone with columns and pediments. The main feature are the arches which rest on columns with rectangular bases forming portals. It was designed to be a focus point for social interaction and is directly on the plaza of Ocotlan.





One of the incredible murals at the Municipal Hall in Ocotlan was painted by Rodolfo Morales, a native-born resident of the city and generous benefactor to his hometown.

The town is intimately linked with the life of the well known artist Rodolfo Morales. Rodolfo Morales was a native of Ocotlan whose paintings are largely devoted to images from his hometown, including local churches, indigenous women, and religious processions. During his lifetime Rodolfo Morales worked to save many of the historic and architectural treasures of Ocotlan. In 1992 he established the Rodolfo Morales Foundation dedicated to the preservation and encouragement of the culture of Oaxaca and support for the youth of Ocotlan.


The highlight of a visit to Ocotlan on Friday is the amazing outdoor Mercado (market) which spreads out from the main plaza for blocks and blocks. The indigenous word for this type of outdoor mercado is TIANGUIS.  Beneath a riot of colorful tarps, massive amounts of merchandise, much of it modern stuff, but also plenty of old-fashioned goodies, cover a multitude of tables and street-laid mats. How about a handmade saddle for your burro or a wooden yoke for your oxen? If not that, perhaps four or five turkeys (live), a goat, or perhaps a dozen bags of locally grown chilies, herbs, fruits, or vegetables. The selection is endless and the colors are brilliant! Also to be found: pottery, baskets, cutlery, leather goods, hats, wood carvings, and beverages such as mezcal and tejate. There are plenty of outdoor stands serving hot just-off-the-grill dishes for your tasting. And of course, the municipal indoor market is filled with permanent food stands where you can sit and be served some local dishes for your enjoyment.






The most important tradition in Ocotlan is the weekly Friday market day which is known in the indigenous language as the TIANGUIS. The Ocotlan tianguis is one of the oldest and largest in the Central Valleys region of Oaxaca and a wonderful experience when visiting Oaxaca.





Produce and products from surrounding towns are available as well as manufactured products. Market day is not just buying and selling for rural and indigenous communities. It is a festive ritual which has been held regularly for thousands of years, attracting both locals and families from small outlying villages to both buy and sell.




Tejate is a drink made of corn and cacao that is traditional in the state of Oaxaca and comes from the pre-Hispanic era where it is believed that it was used for ceremonial purposes. These ladies are certainly enjoying their tejate at the weekly tianguis!




Nowhere else in Mexico will you find more kinds of chilies and Oaxacan cuisine shows them off in dish after dish. The most famous chili is the smoky pasilla Oaxaqueno, grown only in the Mixe region, but ubiquitous in Oaxacan salsas. Other dishes rely on more obscure varieties, like chihuacle, which comes in three colors: amarillo (yellow), negro (black), and rojo (red). The selection is astounding.





Resourcefulness and regionalism are hallmarks of Oaxacan cuisine, but cooks here also display the distinctively Mexican taste for fruit of all sorts—not just tomatoes and chilies—in savory dishes. Try guaje, an indigenous tree with an edible pod fruit that Oaxacans love. The garlicky, grassy, bitter seeds are consumed as a snack and essential to the Mixteca dish huaxmole, a traditional dish from the Mixteca-Puebla cuisine in southern Mexico, usually prepared with goat meat, chiles and a kind of special local string bean, called the huaje or guaje.






The tianguis which is held each Friday is an opportunity for many to socialize with distant neighbors. Market day begins very early for both residents and those who travel to the town to sell. Please note the senora's long hair braids which are intertwined with colorful ribbon.




Prepared regional specialties are offered on the plaza and in the adjacent permanent municipal market. Some of the traditional foods here include several types of mole "sauce" (negro, rojo, amarillo, coloradito and more), chichilo (another mole oaxaqueño), tasajo (a cut of beef usually smoked over a wood fire), tamales in banana leaves, and tacos with chapulines (fried grasshoppers). Please note the Frida Kahlo look-alike who is the well recognized owner of this popular eatery.





Oaxacan cuisine is local and regional to the core, the beneficiary of abundant micro-climates and fantastic biodiversity. Many dishes rely on local varieties of corn, chilies, herbs, and greens found only in a particular region. Many of these dishes have persevered through the years thanks in no small part to the state's isolated geography which has helped to preserve local pot herbs like cebollín, a wild onion with chive-like leaves and the marjoram like Almoraduz in the Sierra Sur. In my opinion, the cuisine of Oaxaca is beyond compare!





In addition to the Friday mercado, a must visit is to the gorgeous Templo de Santo Domingo church. Fortunately, Ocotlan reaped many benefits due to Rodolfo Morales, the internationally celebrated, but locally born artist, who dedicated his fortune to improving his hometown. The Rodolfo Morales Foundation has continued the work he started before his death.


Atrium and facade of the Temple of Santo Domingo de Guzmán


After it was no longer used as a monastery, the Santo Domingo complex had several uses, including that of a prison where inmates made crafts. In the latter 20th century, the Rodolfo Morales Foundation restored and converted the monastery space into a museum, which contains one room with works by Morales, one room with Oaxaca crafts, and one room with artwork from the colonial period. The church was also restored by the foundation which still maintains its religious function.






















The Chapel of the Holy Child at the Temple of Santo Domingo. The feast of the Virgin of Ocotlán is celebrated on 15 May. Most of the festivities take place on the main square of the town with live music and regional food, especially tamales and atole. Atole is a drink of pre-Hispanic origin consumed in Mexico. It is made from corn and water and commonly flavored with spices and best served warm.





The most visible expression of the restoration work by the Rodolfo Morales Foundation is the Temple de Santo Domingo which has been completely rebuilt, from its bright blue, yellow, and white exterior to the Baroque gold glitter of its nave ceiling. Absolutely and totally spectacular!

Also painstakingly restored is the monastery behind and adjacent to the Temple which now houses the Museum where exhibits of religious art from the monastery and the church, contemporary local arts, as well as some of Morales’s own work are found.

Ocotlán de Morelos has been associated with crafts for generations. Some of the crafts still practiced here include basketry, textiles in the form of rebozos (blouses) and other traditional clothing embroidered in silk thread, blade making, saddle making, and miniatures in lead. The town is known for its red clay pottery which is often painted in various colors. While the men dominate the rug-weaving and woodcarving industries in Oaxaca, the women reign with their pottery. This is true in Ocotlan as well. The best known pottery family in Ocotlan is the Aguilar. At one of our visits, there was an amazing exhibit in the monastery of the ceramics by the internationally renowned Aguilar sisters of Ocotlan.





These painted columns are located in the Museum which is a part of the Santo Domingo complex. They were painted by Rodolfo Morales and depict the women of Ocotlan. Morales is best known for his brightly colored surrealistic dream-like canvases and collages often featuring Mexican women in village settings. Rodolfo Morales (born 1925 in Ocotlán de Morelos, Oaxaca and died 2001 in Oaxaca, Mexico) was a Mexican surrealist painter who incorporated elements of magical realism in his work.




The above tin work is on display with the ceramics of the Aguilar sisters at the Santo Domingo Museum (the restored convent of the Santo Domingo complex). Rodolfo Morales was notable for his restoration of historic buildings in Ocotlán including this restored convent. Together with Rufino Tamayo and Francisco Toledo he helped make Oaxaca in Southern Mexico a center for contemporary art and tourism.



My husband taking a much needed break after visiting the Temple of Santo Domingo and the Museum in Ocotlan.

The following photographs illustrate the amazing ceramic craftsmanship of the Aguilar family in Ocotlan which can be seen at the San Domingo Museum.





The detail and colors of the Aguilar ceramics are fantastic.



King and Queen of the sea rise from the ocean depths at the Santo Domingo Museum in Ocotlan.



Check out the amazing detail on this ceramic sculpture which I call the "Iguana Lady" of Ocotlan.

   
Another stunning ceramic creation by one of the Aguilar sisters in Ocotlan.


The Casa de Cultura Rodolfo Morales, in the yellow-painted mansion at Morelos 108, is three doors north from the plaza’s north west corner. In the graceful and lovely interior of the Casa de Cultura, the Morales family and staff manage the foundation’s affairs, teach art and computer classes, and sponsor community events. On the second floor is a gallery exhibiting collages by Morales. The Casa is open to visitors every Friday. It is a quiet and charming way to end your visit to wonderful Ocotlan.




The house is located just north of the main square and preserves a number of Morales personal effects, including collages. The building is also home to the Fundación Cultural Rodolfo Morales, A. C (Rodolfo Morales Cultural Foundation), which is a private, nonprofit organization which promotes education and culture in the Ocotlan District of the state of Oaxaca.





The Rodolfo Morales house is a mansion from the 18th century which he rescued and lived in. Today the building is a cultural center with an open-air theater, galleries of work by local artists, and a computer center. All activities and resources here are offered free of charge. I could be very happy cooking in this colorful and traditional kitchen!





A colorful collage by Rodolfo Morales which can be seen upstairs in one of the studios at the
Casa de Cultura Rodolfo Morales in Ocotlan.




Morales was especially known for his bright and bold murals and paintings such as this depiction of the ladies of Ocotlan.



Another collage by Rodolfo Morales which can be viewed on the second floor of the Casa de Cultura Rodolfo Morales in Ocotlan.

On the way to Ocotlan, there are three additional villages which hold their weekly mercado also on Friday. If you have the time (and the energy!) it would be worth your while to visit one or more of the following pueblos: San Bartolo Coyotepec (famous for its black pottery), Santo Tomas Jalieza (famous for its hand-woven belts and leather goods), and San Antonio Ocotlan (famous for its finely hand-embroidered blouses and dresses). Also in the area is San Martin Tilcajete (best known for “alebrijes” which are wood carvings of real or fantasy creatures painted in bright colors and intricate patterns).

                                              
 ALEBRIJES FROM SAN MARTIN TILCAJETE










BLACK POTTERY FROM SAN BARTOLO COYOTEPEC












  HAND WOVEN BELTS AND LEATHER GOODS FROM SANTO TOMAS JALIEZA










 FINELY HAND-EMBROIDERED BLOUSES AND DRESSES FROM SAN ANTONIO OCOTLAN









I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Ocotlan de Morelos in Oaxaca. My new amigo seen below and I look forward to introducing you to another favorite weekly mercado in Oaxaca in the near future.  It’s name is ZAACHILA and we both hope you can join us.


   

 I remember hearing many years ago that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I am a believer of those inspiring words so I am including the link to my WEB ALBUM below which has additional photos for this posting.  And if that is not enough, I have also included the following embedded SLIDE SHOW of the web album for your immediate enjoyment. 

LINK TO OCOTLAN DE MORELOS ALBUM


Until the next time, safe travels and be well!  Laura



Memories are just a click away!  












BLOG: OCOTLAN, OAXACA MARKET DAY