There are two very similar words in Spanish, Sarai told me this morning. We had just met near the flagpole at La Catedral, the central landmark in Oaxaca. The city’s religious monument is abutted by the town’s zocalo, a pulsing public square that, like a human heart, nourishes every Mexican city; every day, nearly everyone in Oaxaca’s Centro passes through its tree-lined ventricles.
“The first word is casualidad. It means something that happens by chance, by coincidence. The second is causalidad – and that is a series of events caused by fate.”
Sarai was making a point. Even though it was my penultimate day in Oaxaca, and I still had not heard a word back from Fernando Limon, my visit to this magical city had not been fruitless. The quest to find this local family, which I had met so briefly 24 years ago, was the spark that returned me to Oaxaca—and rekindled, in a big way, my love for the place. Last night I resolved to spend at least a week or two here every year – I want to be connected to the vibrancy, art, light, music, and mezcal of what must be, next to Mexico City itself, the country’s cultural capital.
So even though I’ve failed to find the people, or person, I was looking for, I did rediscover why I felt such a powerful draw to this place a quarter century ago.
And today was another day of wonderful urban discoveries. A visit this morning to the San Pablo Cultural Center, where the exquisite collection of painted figures includes a psychedelic Volkswagen bus; hot chocolate with ginger (and Sarai) on the pedestrian lane beside the Church of Santo Domingo; and a second visit to the Oaxaca Contemporary Art Museum, where the haunting 25-year retrospective of kinetic sculptures by the profound Fernando Palma purr and writhe and rattle—a dance of moving gourds, corn husks, wrestling masks, and cardboard coyote heads.
“Has Fernando Palma ever visit from Mexico City?” I asked the bag check women.
“The maestro is here today. Would you like to met him?”
And so we toured the exhibition again—this time with Palma himself as our personal guide …
After all this richness, it is easy to feel completely satisfied with my experience here, and suffused with a true sense of causalidad — especially after a few (or more than a few) artisanal mezcals.
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So honestly: The last thing I expected was to wander back into my room at 10 p.m., and find an email from Fernando Limon.