I’ve just returned home from leading my 11th Oaxaca at Christmastime tour. It’s a truly fabulous mix of birds and culture, even though my brain is really quite fixated 100% in nature. In fact, the number of hours spent birding per day is probably lower on this tour than any other in the WINGS catalog. But it is indeed a birding tour, and a few past participants (who didn’t read the detailed tour information) have actually complained that there was too much birding and not enough time off.
I’ll post some nature photos soon, but for starters here are some from the peak cultural experience this time of year – the Noche de Rábanos. This was the 119th anniversary of this unique radish carving competition. Carved displays of radishes are placed along 2 1/2 sides of the town square (the zócalo), and 1 1/2 sides are displays in the categories of corn husk and dried flower arrangements.
The downtown area is extremely festive this time of year, with many vendors selling handicrafts (as well as the latest fads in plastic holiday crap). In the afternoon our driver dropped us off near the square and we passed the Cathedral with its huge decorated tree.
We got in line at 4:50 p.m. to enter the raised platform giving one an unimpeded view of the displays. They opened the walkway at 5:00 p.m., but the line was already 1 1/2 blocks long. We finally entered the platform at 6:35, and by that time the line snaked up and down the block six times.
The first of two radish categories was traditional – displaying cultural traditions such as dances, churches, town festivals, etc.
This one actually depicts the Noche de Rábanos itself.
I’m always amazed at the creativity of the open category.
A Dream with the Gods
The Axolotls were by far my favorite. I’ve always wanted to see one in the wild (it was one of my Safari Animal Cards which I collected when I was 10 years old), but it may actually have gone extinct in the wild only in the past decade.
There are also corn husks displays, this one titled The Mixed Symphonic Concerto of The Oaxacan Grasshoppers.
This was the last of the displays, in the straw flower category, titled A Dancing Nagual. (Look up nagual in Wikipedia.) The artist was clearly extremely proud of his creation and we were very touched by his appreciation of the time we spent admiring it.
We could probably fill this tour every year, but I’m so addicted to Christmas Bird Counts (and like to spend Christmas with family from time to time), so I’ve decided I’m offering this tour only every other year. My next tour to Oaxaca at Christmastime will be December 2018, but there’s a chance I could be doing a private trip there during the warmer and wetter summer months before then.