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Nostalgia for Cochineal
I would recommend but a few places unconditionally for a trip. Most of them are suitable for some people, and offer irresistible attraction for others. Oaxaca is an exception. I cannot imagine anyone of average intelligence, who for instance, reunites the normalcy requirements to obtain a driver’s license, which would not be seduced by the magic of this colonial Mexican city. If you can do it, do not hesitate. Go to Oaxaca without further consideration.
In Oaxaca, the crisscross and cultural mix draws the lines of its streets and everything brings about nostalgia still present in daily life. In Oaxaca, I understood the magic realism of Garcia Marquez. This impostor was never a writer imagining a thing. His fame stems from his journalistic capacity to narrate everyday life in universes such as Oaxaca.
I do not know what attracts the most of this Mexican region, if the Mixtec and Zapotec footprints, the live and present vestiges of the Spanish conquistadors, or the irresistible colorfulness of its markets, its handcrafts, and its paintings.
The Dominican monks filled this Mexican State with convents. In the sixteen-century alone, they built more than fifty; the majority still stand welcoming the faith of many Christians. They probably wanted converts to guarantee control over a privileged universe.
People still formulate theories and conjectures to understand what motivated the old inhabitants of Oaxaca to build atop the Monte Albán hills, and brought about the decline of this unrepeatable city. A sunset in Monte Albán is the closest I know to a beautiful dream.
Situated in the crossroad of the Pacific to Atlantic routes, Oaxaca stopped growing for financial reasons, and that was the salvation of this city, a Cultural Patrimony of Humanity. Continuous streets full of houses that hide up to three Spanish-style courtyards, soft lights of impossible sunsets, and market noises from another time.
Among the protagonists of Oaxaca, I feel special affection, "nostalgia" for the "grana cochinilla" (an insect). Unfairly displaced for carcinogenic anilines, this blessed parasite that used to dye the noble robes of Cardinals, rich merchants, and royalty, has returned in a time where ecology motivates smart consumption. For a long time, this cacti parasite was confused with a seed. Only thanks to the discovery of the microscope it was possible to see that the affluence from Mexico, and capable of dyeing the noblest of fabrics, was a little bug. They tried to copy the formula, but the grana cochinilla, faithful to its American origin, refused to grow in Europe.
Now the Oaxaca fields are again teeming with grana cochinilla that as a soft white power comes to rest over the cacti. If you can do it, do not hesitate. Come to the paradise that is Oaxaca. It is a certainty that in the land of the grana cochinilla you will understand many things that are now an enigma. If you obtained your driver’s license, or are about to, you fill all the requirements to be trapped forever in the magic of Oaxaca.
By Carlos Carnicero