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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Mexico Part 15

    Thursday, October 12, 2017
    Oaxaca City, Mexico

    A log penetrates two boxes at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    A log penetrates two boxes at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    A Mayan sculpture at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    A Mayan sculpture at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    I hit up not one, not two, but three museums today. The first one was the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, which is connected to the Templo de Santo Domingo, situated in a labyrinth-like former monastery on the second floor. Walking down seemingly endless hallways, I encountered so much stuff in so many rooms, I’m still not sure if I saw it all. I tried my best, though. There was a wealth of awesome objects on display, including armor, costumes, masks, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, weapons and way more–much of it presented in modern glass display cases. A few larger items stood out in the open.

    A table for midgets hand-painted in a floral motif at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    A table for midgets hand-painted in a floral motif at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    A collection of grotesque masks at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    A collection of grotesque masks at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    “The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s best regional museums. The rich displays take you right through the history and cultures of Oaxaca state up to the present day, emphasizing the continuity between pre-Hispanic and contemporary cultures in areas such as crafts, medicine and food. The greatest treasure is the Mixtec hoard from Tomb 7 at Monte Albán. This dates from the 14th century, when Mixtecs reused an old Zapotec tomb at Monte Albán to bury one of their kings and his sacrificed servants, along with a stash of beautifully worked silver, turquoise, coral, jade, amber, pearls, finely carved bone, crystal goblets, a skull covered in turquoise, and a lot of gold.

    The Teatro Macedonio Alcala in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    The Teatro Macedonio Alcala in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    A couple of collage artworks by Peter Liashkov as part of his show L.A. Random at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    A couple of collage artworks by Peter Liashkov as part of his show L.A. Random at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    “Halls I to IV are devoted to the pre-Hispanic period, halls V to VIII to the Spanish colonial period, halls IX to XIII to Oaxaca in the independence era and after, and the final room (XIV) to the Santo Domingo Monastery itself. At the end of the long corridor past hall IX, glass doors give a view into the beautifully ornate choir of the Templo de Santo Domingo. Surprisingly, the museum’s explanatory material is in Spanish only. Also there is a good book-and-souvenir shop.”–Lonely Planet

    A surreal collage by Janis Huerta at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    A surreal collage by Janis Huerta at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    A mural by Janis Huerta at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    A mural by Janis Huerta at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    Next up, I stopped by the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca, a much smaller facility set in a beautiful Spanish colonial house. As its name implies, this museum hosts contemporary art from Mexico and beyond, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, videos, etc. Most of the work I saw in there was quite good–especially the multi-layer collages of Peter Liashkov and the strange, surrealistic assemblages of Janis Huerta.

    A diminutive hand-embroidered cloth from the Guna people of Panama at the Museo Textil Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    A diminutive hand-embroidered cloth from the Guna people of Panama at the Museo Textil Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    The strange and delicate hanging thread sculptures of Luciana Corres at the Museo Textil Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    The strange and delicate hanging thread sculptures of Luciana Corres at the Museo Textil Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    My third and final stop of the day was at the Museo Textil Oaxaca, a small venue that exhibits textiles from Mexico and other countries. The displays there included diminutive hand-embroidered cloths from the Guna people of Panama that were very colorful and whimsical. On the opposite end of the size spectrum were large, spectacular quilts hand-sewn by Bill Stecher. Some of his patterns were of the traditional symmetrical variety, while others were more amorphous and experimental. Last but not least were the strange and delicate hanging thread sculptures of Luciana Corres, which looked like they could gently float away into a gorgeous mist at any given moment.

    A ritual dance and music performance at the Zocalo in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    A ritual dance and music performance at the Zocalo in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    A nice contrast of sunlight and black clouds in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
    A nice contrast of sunlight and black clouds in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

    A bit later, as I walked by the town square, the Zocalo, I chanced upon a group of people engaged in some kind of ritual. As a man pounded away on a huge drum, a dozen or so people–some clutching infants–sang and danced around a pile of offerings that included flowers and a bowl emitting some kind of fragrant smoke. Several hundred people stood around in a big rectangle watching. Later, a couple of guys set up folding chairs for some of them. After that performance ended, I saw some people in traditional costumes getting ready to stage another. After suffering through nearly an hour of speeches in the Spanish language only, the dance finally began. Unfortunately, it was performed to recorded music that sounded really cheesy, so I left.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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