Cathedral of Oaxaca, ZocaloI’m actually not sure if the Zapotecs had a specific rain dance, but somebody’s doing one. Did I mention that it has absolutely poured nearly every single day I’ve been in Oaxaca? I was told that the rainy season (which we are in) usually brings sunny days with a one hour intense downpour in the afternoon giving way to sunny skies again. Well, not this season. We’ve had torrential rains every day, nearly all day. Since I’m in a classroom from 9AM to 5PM, it hasn’t mattered so much on weekdays. Other than the fact that my clothes, backpack and shoes have been in a permanent damp state. Heating, central or space, doesn’t seem to be a part of the Oaxacan lifestyle, so clothes — even when you hang them up — don’t really dry when it rains continually. Luckily on Friday when we have a half day of school, we got a few hours of sunshine — which makes this colorful city absolutely magical. (At left is a photo of the Cathedral of Oaxaca shot during what may be my only hour of sunshine. Included to remind myself that I did see the sun at some point.)

However, the rain hasn’t — dare I say it — put too much of a damper on things. There’s always something happening on the streets of Oaxaca, rain or shine. In fact, the Zócalo, the city’s main plaza, with its covered porticos, churches and government buildings, has plenty of places to duck into to wait out the rain. Or not, since the rain hasn’t really ended at any point.

balloon vender on the Zocalo, Oaxaca

Balloons are big on the Zócalo. And toy flying birds, and flowers, and tacos, and fried grasshoppers (surprisingly good!)

clown on the Zocalo, Oaxaca

So are clowns. And Mariachi bands. And people singing for change. (And as you can see, the rain has started again and I'm sheltering in a cafe under a portico.)

After a leisurely cup of coffee, I decided the rain wasn’t going to end, so I made a dash for the Cathedral of Oaxaca just across the plaza. It was originally erected in 1553, but had to be extensively rebuilt in 1730 after a devastating earthquake.

shrine to early mexican martyrs, Cathedral of Oaxaca

My favorite chapel is dedicated to two early Native saints, brothers who converted and were martyred by their Zapotec neighbors for their trouble. (Their bones are in the box under the picture.)

detail in cathedral of oaxaca

There is as much gilding and painting and fancy woodwork as anything you'll see in Italy, much of it executed by Indigenous artists. Although the massive altarpiece and the organ were hauled in from Italy several centuries ago.

Saint Christopher, Cathedral of Oaxaca

Saint Christopher may have been busted back to civilian by Vatican II, but he has pride of place in the Cathedral. Hooray for Chris!

The Cathedral of Oaxaca and Templo Santo Domingo are currently my favorites of Oaxaca’s many churches and cathedrals. Mainly because those two let me use one of my favorite Spanish words — original — which, in Spanish is pronounced oh-rrree-HEE-nal. It’s almost as fun to say as indígena (in-DEE-hee-na), which sounds so much better than indigenous. (That chapel to the two brothers lets me use both words — a two-fer!)

Palacio del Gobierno, Oaxaca

Still raining! I took myself to the elegant Palacio del Gobierno, which used to have an open roof, but luckily, now has a canvas covering over these interconnected courtyards.

I went into the Palacio to see the famous mural that depicted Oaxaca’s history. After a second week of intensive Spanish classes, I was looking for something that didn’t require me to read or speak Spanish.

mural in the Palacio del Gobierno

Just what I needed. Here are revolutionary heros, José María Morelos and favorite Oaxacan son, Benito Juarez (right).

So many good bits in this massive three part mural, but I especially like this vignette:

priest and zapotecs in mural, Palace of the Government, Oaxaca

This priest probably thinks he's converted some more Zapotecs, as they lay the traditional offerings to their gods on the altar. I think they're just humoring him and going about their religion their way.

Still raining! But luckily, the Palacio del Gobierno also houses a great children’s museum of science and human history. I think it’s aimed at the 5-8 year old set, which is just about the level of my Spanish. I had a great time in the earthquake simulator and banging on the button that activated a movie of undersea life — until the guard had to come and tell me that I should only push the button once. What did I say? I’m Five.

evolution display at Palacio del Gobierno, Oaxaca

It's also worth noting that, in a Third World country in an area where illiteracy is very high, the government feels very comfortable showing a display on Evolution without bowing to any Intelligent Design nonsense or "alternative science" disclaimers.

However, the museum did have one inexplicable video featuring Marcel Marceau (I think it had something to do with the exhibition on human language.)

marcel marceau

Sorry, you get points off for Mimes. Mimes are creepy.

More photos of today’s adventure here.