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Oaxaca, México 


The roots lead us to discover an unmissable destination in my country, the most intense ingredients are fused in one of the most special sauces – the rich and mysterious mole.

episode transcription

Hello, what a pleasure to greet you, I am Yael Yancelson and I am very excited to be your guide and companion in this magical journey through the senses and imagination.

In this episode we are going to take a trip that excites me a lot, because it is part of my roots.

We are going to OAXACA, DE Juárez. A state of the Mexican Republic, rich in culture, musical tradition and recognized for its delicious gastronomy- so this trip will be full of smells, rhythms, flavors and color. ¿What do you think about flying there?

Oaxaca is a must-see destination if you travel through Mexico, rich in history and positioned as one of the most important states in this territory.

Walking through the streets that emerge from Macedonio Alcalá and having left behind the historic center and the majestic green quarry constructions, we come across the Contemporary ART Museum founded neither more nor less than by the renowned Oaxacan painter, Francisco Toledo.

There is so much to see here that I don’t want to miss anything, the streets full of colorful crafts and their artists showing us how they work on them, make this tour even more special because we see alebrijes that are mythical figures that mix elements of different animals in one, making them almost surreal pieces painted by hand of pink, blue, black and white dots, yellow, orange, green, purple and endless of cheerful colors, we also see obsidian pieces, hand-woven huipiles, jewelry and suddenly the smell of spices , jerky and tlayuda invade our noses, making us walk to the traditional market on November 20, and among dealers who are the merchants that flood its aisles, we enjoy a true culinary feast.

Manuel, an Oaxacan artisan, welcomes us in his workshop and tells us that unlike the alebrijes that are made in Mexico, Oaxacans are made with copal wood and not with papier-mâché. They are more inspired by nahual ideas and supernatural beings, he carries this tradition inherited by his father and grandfather and wants his children to also dedicate themselves to it, as he is passionate to create these works of art. Tell me, do you like alebrijes? What do they make you think about?

Manuel has told me that legend has it that alebrijes are spiritual guides and that it is the piece that chooses its owner and not the other way around. Let’s see then what he has around here in his workshop and which alebrije he chooses me ……

Oaxaca is undoubtedly recognized for its mole, especially the black one of which it has the designation of origin for its endemic ingredients, in fact, it was my paternal grandmother who made us fans of this traditional and complex dish that, I don’t know if you knew , but there are more than 100 types: coloradito, yellow, green mole or pipían, black mole, olla mole – uuuuuuuuuuuuuuu is a delight.

The word mole in Spanish coincides with “molli” of the Aztecs, which means sauce, spring or dough. As a result of miscegenation, among others, the creation of Mole Negro arises in Oaxaca. It is said that the recipe was born like many others, in a nunnery. This complex sauce has 26 ingredients: chilhuacle peppers, mulato, chilcostle (guajillo), Mexican pasilla, sesame, almonds, raisins, peanuts, walnuts, plantain, cloves, black pepper, oregano, avocado leaf, aromatic herbs, roasted garlic, roasted onion, cinnamon, chocolate, sugar, salt, lard, egg yolk bread, tomato (tomato), burnt tortilla, burnt chili peppers . It is complemented with turkey, chicken, chicken or pork meat.

It was Fray Bernardino de Sahagún who, in the General History of the Things of New Spain, related for the first time a pre-Hispanic stew that was offered to Moctezuma and that was prepared with a caldosa chili sauce called chilmulli or chilmole, constantly repeating the word mulli to refer to a sauce. Said mullis were also offered to the gods as a token of gratitude after long journeys. Over time, these sauces evolved, adding to the preparation other ingredients typical of each region where they were prepared and others brought from Europe and Asia during the time colonial.

Well, after this feast I want to tell you that unfortunately in this state of the Mexican Republic, as in so many others there are great deficiencies and social problems, I found that The Community Foundation, promotes social participation inside and outside of Oaxaca to improve the quality of life of Oaxacan communities Through initiatives that seek to strengthen productive projects, support education and the sustainable use of natural resources, generating strategic alliances and I think it may be interesting to help this cause, if you like more information I leave you the link: www.fundacion-oaxaca.org/ One of the many programs they have and that caught my attention is the one that is promoted to maintain and improve ecosystem services, and the water cycle, in the temperate forests of Chimalapas and the Mixteca oaxaqueña, through the use of pine resin that allows to attend to three essential aspects: a) Conserve forests, b) Maintain what’s ecosystem services that they provide and c) Provide income to the population, avoiding the migration of its inhabitants. It is always interesting to know what so many people do to help different communities and in REALIDAD ALTERNATIVA we seek to create community and help in different ways.


And I have a very special guest, I had told them at the beginning that this trip excited me a lot because it was part of my roots, because if my family is from here in Oaxaca and my father is born here, so welcome Bernardo, we are already in the land that saw you being born and I want to ask you: what does Oaxaca smell like to you and what does this city sound like to you?


Speaker 1: Well, as I promised, we have an extraordinary day. Bernardo welcome, nothing better than someone who was born here in Oaxaca to guide us and that this state of the Republic is here, because it has many roots that connect you and me here to Oaxaca. And I want to ask you, what does Oaxaca smell like to you? How do you feel here?

Speaker 2: Well, they are aromas and flavors from my childhood, a childhood that I lived deeply with a family in Oaxaca, because I was very small. It was a Oaxaca of 75,000 inhabitants in the 1950s. So we were really a family. It is that everyone lived, took care of you, provided for you, they were attentive, and greeted people two, three, four times on the walks in the street. We used to walk a lot, use the bicycle and there was always hello, how are you? I just saw your mother, your brother and there was always this friendship of people who knew us, who knew each other, who knew where we lived, who our parents were, then it felt absolute tranquility and it was really a very intense experience, very intense, with a lot of respect. We were, mind you, we were the only Jewish family in Oaxaca. My parents were very, very intelligent in educating us under the Jewish religion, but always living together. And I have magnificent and wonderful memories of being in my school in the elementary school that I was in the private school Minerva. Ukraine Speak the name of my director, Mr. Guillermo Mondragón Gómez, who gave us an education of many experiences, it was an experiential education. It was  an education, then, that even though I was a Jew, I was the organizer. When I was in the fifth and sixth year of primary school, I was the president of the Student Society of my beloved Oaxaca and of my beloved primary school, and I had to organize the masses on Teacher’s Day, on Mother’s Day. Then I went with Father Memo, my father who was at that time, because he was in charge of what was the Cathedral, the Tabernacle, and I was going to organize these Masses and he knew that my origin was Jewish and we always had a smile, a support and I always respecting, knowing the rituals of both the Jewish religion and the Christian religion.

And that gave us. Impressively important knowledge, today I see it in adulthood. How important that training was for me and seeing the human being as what a human being is, without labels, regardless of whether you are Jewish, Catholic or Mohammedan Christian. We are human beings and I am grateful to my parents who gave me that freedom and also the fundamentals of who we are. They gave us the origin, we had the Sabbath. My mother was never Orthodox, my parents were very liberal, but they always gave us those roots of customs, of traditions. My mother never lacked Shabbat bread, which was a pressed bread that we called Allah. She always had Shabbat candles and always welcomed anyone to our table with absolute respect. There were people who smoked, however they knew that in front of the Shabbat candles it was impossible to smoke. And then that respect gave us growth in a very beautiful city of Oaxaca. And well, afterwards we came to study, prepare to work a lot in Mexico City and of course to know a little more deeply everything that we learned about Jewish culture in high school, but what they always were to me. In my childhood, it stayed deep in my heart.

Speaker 1: Recently we can say that Oaxaca smells or tastes or feels like tolerance, I respect it

Speaker 2: totally, respect, tolerance, understanding, tranquility, to listen. There were many, many, many learnings that I had as a child and I believe that this marked my development as a person in my activity, in the different activities that I have had in my life.

Speaker 1: Sure you do. And since we said what does it sound like? What music can you recommend that makes you feel or vibrate this city?

Speaker 2: What a song! Right now what questions came to mind. Of course I adore the songs of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the classics, La Sandunga, La Llorona, Martínez, Ana. There are hundreds of songs in the repertoire. I really like Chuy Garrido, for example, but there is a melody that even gets minced in the body when I think about it, which is God never dies, God never dies, he was converted. It is a composition that was made there at the end of the 19th century by a character who, like many, was not recognized in his time

The teacher Macedonio Alcalá had his life, who was called Uncle Macedo. By the way, I’m talking about 150 years ago and one fifty-three years ago that he composed. What today has become the anthem is not the anthem, let’s say obligatory, official, so to speak. It is not the official anthem, but the people, the people. Today, after 153 years, which was that composition, I want to say that the music was nothing else. It was many years after almost a century after Vicente Garrido put lyrics to it. This was the original composition of the God Never Dies. It was solely and exclusively a waltz composed by Macedonio Alcalá, who today, after around 1830, I think was the theater that was first a casino. Today the theater bears the name of this great Mexican composer and this composition, like many things, suddenly becomes legends that you don’t know is reality, what it was. There are many contradictions between what was what generated it, what is a reality. And it is that this man had his fame as a composer, he had his group and his orchestras, he was the promoter of several orchestras. At that time he would go to dances, to serenades, to go from one town to another because there were weekends, it is known that he would go from one place to another to play and it was a way in which he could support his wife and he married. But he got sick. Some say that he had a liver problem because he was drinking a lot, which in Oaxaca is not difficult to think that he arrived at and others also say that he was affected by typhoid and his economic situation was very, very, very precarious. He lived on the little he earned at parties, typical dances, etc., but he was in a terribly bad situation. He couldn’t make money, he got sick. Let’s think that it was indeed typhoid that affected him and he felt in a terribly bad state of mind, in a great depression. However, Oaxacans are always very willing to help their compadre. And then there is one of the anecdotes that is factual. There are two, but there it is that I really like that one of the flutists of the orchestra to which his compadre Mateo belonged, one day when he went to talk with him and listened to him, because how precarious he was

In his life, his health was very deteriorated and well with a certain intention that he did not realize it, because like everyone had a certain pride, esteem this compadre grabbed and left a small mouthful under his pillow with twelve silver coins

Master Mateo was the one who left him. Well, he retired. Compadre, I wish you very well and you know, and give you a message of faith that everything can be fixed. And this Macedonio Alcalá teacher suddenly, as he discovered when he lay down on his bed again these coins and it is said that these coins, as it led him to a state of mind of gratitude, of deep gratitude and of telling his wife look, there is always a possibility of getting ahead. God never dies, fortune leaves us. So he left this composition, he started. They say that he started to write this on the wall because he didn’t even have any paper and then he passed this work that became the wine. There is really another story that they say that in the town of la cílula, which by the way in my childhood we called Tokyo, Lula, because it was a town in which many, many of its inhabitants were dedicated to bringing contraband things from the state of Quintana Roo, because there was a time when Quintana Roo had a free port that was told that what the UES is, the capital of this state was always the Confederate or Quintana Roo. But hey, from there they brought a lot of contraband things. Many of my children’s toys were Japanese at the time. No, it was not China. The toy manufacturer was Japan, with extraordinary quality. Well, I’m already getting into another topic, but hey, there are so many memories I have of my house and that the column that we called Tokio, Lula, say that the people went to ask the teacher Macedonio Alcalá that they knew he was very ill A waltz for one of the festivities of the great celebrations that the towns have with the patron saint of the Virgin Mary, who is the patron saint of that town.

Speaker 2: Pedro Infante sings with the lyrics, but I like to listen to it in the traditional way with the Oaxaca State Symphony Orchestra.

Speaker 1: Then we are going to listen to it and thank you very much.

Speaker 2: I stand up because it is the anthem, it is the official anthem officially recognized. Thank you.

Well, this is how today we leave the city of Oaxaca, we will travel every week to another corner of this wonderful world, to know, enjoy and fly with the imagination, I wait for you every week and I ask you if you liked the Share content with your friends and give me a like and a review of your comments because with that you help me a lot to raise the ranking of this podcast, ALTERNATIVE REALITY A UNIQUE AND DIFFERENT SPACE THAT CREATES COMMUNITY….

We make a difference. I invite you to know about the ONCE foundation for solidarity with blind people in Latin America / and if you like to contribute we will be very grateful …….

Until next week and thanks for traveling with me.

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