San Bartolo Coyotepec

What a day it was! My feet had enough but my spirit could go on and on. My desire for adventure is fully on.

Yesterday I decided it’s time for another trip. After my drawing class I took a local bus to the transit point on the south of Oaxaca to hit further south again. This time I had a target – town of San Bartolo Coyotepec famous for “barrio negro pottery” black clay pottery. I wanted to take a bus again, but I ended up with a collective taxi. Of course with some adventure on the way.

After a bit of creativity with language, help of a map and huge smile I’ve finally found “a bus stop”. However instead of the bus on the bus stop, I’ve found numbers of collective taxies stoping and going in the quantity and speed that took my by surprise. My brain quickly processed the noise and unknown environment, and said ok let’s try a new mode of transport!  I’ve asked one of the driver’s for a price – 10 pesos – brilliant! I was in! The front sit again but…on the back two guys, the driver and me. All good, don’t worry but just a story to share. While we were on the busy street in the traffic I felt safe, but a minute he turned to a quite empty street I said stop. This second my brain moved to an alert mode and I acted instinctively and quickly! He did stop without any hesitation, but with a surprise. I get off without saying or paying anything. My safety is my priority. The second I felt unsafe I  removed myself from the situation. No exceptions! I’ve ended up totally outside of the centre, but I rather be there then stress myself unnecessary. Most likely by observing where the traffic was going later, I think the guy was talking a shortcut. Good for him, good for me. I was out of the situation where I felt uncomfortable.

I’ve started to walk and walk again to try to find my way to the bus. It took me a while as I was really on outskirts of the city. It was a busy street, but the heat of 35 degrees, and smell of shit did not help:) I love the countryside!

Some old ladies showed me the way to go. Locals in the traffic were looking at me with a surprise. I was someone who looked like a tourist, somewhere that looked like an industrial part of Oaxaca. Finally I’ve found the main road! Lovely old gentlemen showed me a bus stop, and even waited with me. I love their reaction when I say I’m from Poland. They usually are very excited to meet somebody from that far. No bus again, but a collective taxi has stopped especially for us. My new friend asked for the price for me, and as I had no hesitation this time I was finally on the way to San Bartolo.

Collective taxi are great invention and great service for the community. It is something between your private taxi and a bus. They all look the same, they all have own number so they must be registered. If they are registrated there is some form of control, but there is no possible way to control their turnover. There is no taxi meter. People get in and get off like in a bus. It’s not like all passengers are going to the same place. There is a set up route, but on this route one is picked up here, dropped off few streets later and replaced by another passanger. All ad hoc without any apps to schedule the pick up. The fares are varied as well, and seems to depend on the distance, and….. there is no people limit oh no! On they way back it was 7 of us in one car! The hand break is covered by a pillow so on the front – the driver, some lady in the middle and me, and 3 adults plus a kid on the back. Crowded but I still enjoyed the ride. Highly recommended experience!

Ok, I finally got to San Bortolo. This small town is famous for “barrio negro pottery” black clay pottery. Apparently local Lady called Doña Rosa Real in 50s discovered a way to create a shiny black finish to a standard grey clay. This innovation made San Bortolo’s pottery popular and famous. The first place where I could admire this shiny black pieces was a small mercado next to a park. In the same park I also found the biggest tree ever! Also about 100 years old.  Well done Mother Earth! I hang out there and went to the museum next doors from the park. I have to admit I did not expect such a good museum in such a small town. It was Museo Estatal de Arte Popular de Oaxaca (State Museum of Popular Art of Oaxaca). They really had good stuff there, mainly black pottery but other crafts from other villages as well. It’s all set up in a large space, good design building where you just flow through the rooms. Every piece is catching your attention, is not too much, it’s not boring I really enjoyed. Well done whoever runs this place.

With that introduction it was time to explore the town. I was on the west side of the village which turns out to be a farmers land. I walked around dreaming about an ice creams. It’s not difficult to find a shop in Mexico. They love little, tiny shops with essentials, and they are just everywhere, but not all of them seems to have an ice creams. On the very end of the village there was a shop with young locals outside. When I’ve asked about ice creams they said pirogue which I did not get of course, but said yes:) The lady quickly opened her bag, where I saw a huge block of ice! It scared me as I had no clue where the water was coming from, but it was too late! She was making me one! She literally shaved the ice into the cup, and was about to pour a juice. I could not understand the names so I smell each bottle to choose my favourite. I love Mexican for letting me to do that! I love to smell food, it tells you a lot about a taste even before you try it. I’ve chosen some citrus base one which turned to be yummy. I continued my exploration. You see, I cannot communicate verbally, but I definitely can share my smile. Mexicans seems to recognise my good heart quickly, so we get on very well. I passed the tortilla making place. I was curious. I’ve seen those places before in Oaxaca so wanted to know more. I smiled, ask the question in english and voilà! I’ve got a free tour how to make tortillas. It was all sign language, but I learnt the ingredients and that daily they making 350kg tortillas which is about 9000pcs! Mass production in somebody’s garage with own delivery man. You can order a plain tortilla over the phone. Clever!

I continue walking and move to the east side of the village which was more about pottery again. I was walking around the strange place, surrender by strangers, but in a moment I said good afternoon in their language they stopped to be strangers. They all smiled, wanted to talk, asking me to sit down. Some elderly gentlemen who was sitting on the front of the shop invited me to join him. It turns out it was his shop and a house at the same time. He talked, I listen. I’m a good listener so this skill is very useful in Mexico. Other house I literally walked in to find a girl who was polishing a clay to make a pottery shine. It was a simple plastic stick she was using, her tools were so basics but her skills and speed was very impressive.

It it so nice to be able to see that people lives everywhere, and at the end of the day we are all the same. We give, we get, we smile, we cry, we are living just like that!

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