You might not think a botanical garden tour would be interesting …. would you? It sure was.
In the centro historico area there is a botanical garden – established only in 1994. The monastery was originally used by Monks, then the Mexican soldiers took it over to use for stabling their horses. This amazing block of land right within the city limits eventually became somewhat of a garbage dump. In 1994 a hotel chain planned to purchase the property and put up a huge hotel, shopping mall and parking. A well known artist, Francesco Toledo got wind of this plan and put forth a proposal to the government to turn it into a botanical garden, and this project was citizen led. One of the most interesting aspects of the garden is that it is created by an artist, not a botanist, so everything is laid out with an eye for art – creating beauty everywhere.
All the plants are indigenous to Oaxaca and many of them rescued and transplanted from areas where highways are being put in.
We saw a 400 year old barrel cactus that they brought in, weighing 5 tons!
Apparently Oaxaca was a wealthy state at one time, with Spaniards buying the insects that feed off cactus plants. This particular insect was crushed to extract a deep rich red colour – which at the time was prized and only able to be used by royalty and the church. So much colour comes off one tiny insect. Vivian crushed a very small one against her palm and the depth of colour was amazing – a different shade on each person that tried it, based on their PH levels.
The tour demonstrated a lot of ways that indigenous people used plants for survival, both nutrition and health. It was 2 k long, and 2 hours! The original water system is still in place and functioning, leading water throughout the property.
We lunched and started walking, surprise, surprise. Grants tour led us to the chocolate district, where we tasted a variety of the Oaxacan specialty chocolate. After picking up a few more vegetables at the market it was home for siesta.
Happy Hour finally! At last we had a chance to make our own guacamole and salsa and sit for a happy hour before heading out to dinner. When looking for a book store in town today we happened across a restaurant “El Quinque” that looked yummy. It sure was – we all loved it and came home with a jar each of their habanero salsa.
Tomorrow we are off to see more ruins at Mitla, a 2000 year old tree – El Tule, maybe some calcified waterfalls and a mescal factory – should be another full day!