Friday, January 7, 2011
I decided last summer to spend July in Oaxaca whether or not I'm accepted to the NEH Spotlight on Mesoamerica institute. While I was there, I stumbled on a hotel that reminded me of some of the motor hotels we used to stay in when we drove across the Southwest from Los Angeles to New Orleans in the 1960's. I met the family who runs the Hotel Villa de Campo and saw some rooms and junior suites and knew then that I would be back. The price -- about $750 a month for a double suite -- can't be beat, and the location, in a quiet neighborhood not far from the Santo Domingo complex where many of the Guelaguetza performances were held, is perfect. I figured I could spend the month studying Spanish and visiting all the villages and churches I missed last summer, returning to the papermaking cooperative at San Agustin Etla, and investigating the political situation more thoroughly.
But I am looking forward to being back in Mexico this summer. Long before I fell in love with Italy, I loved and dreamed of Mexico as the place I would escape to and looked forward to our trips to the border towns when my dad's job took him there. Last summer Oaxaca felt like it was in a time warp, very 1960's in some ways and nostalgic for me. But I loved it for itself, the mountains and villages, the kindness of the people, the layers and layers of history, and the sense of something bubbling just beneath the surface, almost hidden from tourist eyes, a real grassroots movement to be reckoned with. I expect to be back to my old self by the spring, in fact, even better than I was before the surgery and treatment, rested from my sabbatical and more fluent in Spanish. So NEH or no NEH, I'm psyched to have the opportunity to return.