Sarah’s fourth week in Oaxaca!

06 Feb

Hola todos!
This is my fourth week in Oaxaca, Mexico and I’m still not bored of the food, the city, or the
people and I don’t expect I ever will. It seems there are endless things to discover here and I will
never stop learning or enjoying this place! For example, this week we traveled to a small town
called Ocotlan that was about a 50 minute drive from the city. Here, we learned about the process
of making mezcal, a popular alcoholic drink in Mexico that has recently enjoyed a lot of
worldwide popularity. In the city, there are multiple vendors for mezcal that can be found in the
streets or in legitimate stores but it’s hard to comprehend how much time and effort it takes to
make such a small amount of the drink.

Firstly, a liquid is harvested from the maguey plant, a type of agave plant which is native
to Mexico, and later distilled into the popular drink. The plants from which this liquid is
harvested take many years to grow and mature, some as long as 40 years. When they are finally
mature the “piña,” or the plant after the leaves have been removed, is taken and roasted in an
open air pit in the earth during a process that takes a total of 5 days to complete (which gives it a
unique smokey flavor). After this, the piña is ground and put in large vats to ferment. After a
period lasting from months to years, the fermented piña is then placed in a distillery. In the
“fábrica” or factory we visited, the mixture is distilled between 1 and 3 times to give a smoother
taste. The most expensive sold by this fábrica was distilled 3 times and had a chicken breast
introduced at this stage to give it a unique flavor.

The culture behind mezcal has put Oaxaca on the map and the rate of exportation has
grown accordingly. This, however, has begun to take a toll on the smaller-scale producers who
often use family recipes passed down from generation to generation and old-school distillery
practices. The guide we talked to said that the recipe used at another local fábrica had been lost
after the owner died because none of his five sons had learned the craft. Also, because of such
high demand, a local artesian who produced an important part of the fábrica’s distillery process
was unable to keep up with his orders. Therefore, the production of the fábrica’s mezcal has been
hindered. These factors are just a few affecting the small-scale and mostly family-run distilleries
now that demands are growing and traditional production processes are struggling to keep up.
In learning about the local economy of Oaxaca and the industries that dominate it, like
that of mezcal production, we are continuing to discover the difficulties and problems that befall
many of the local artesians as they try to make a living here.

In addition to visiting this local distillery, we also traveled to the city center of Ocotlán
and visited a museum dedicated to the famous painter, Rodolfo Morales. The museum was
located in an old monastery whose restoration was a gift to the community by Morales and is
home to many of his original paintings. A mural painted by Morales himself was featured in a
small section of the ex-convent that features many aspects of Mexican life including people
working in the fields, weaving rugs, and selling things at the market.

Luckily, we decided to travel to Ocotlán on Friday, the same day a weekly market was
held in the town square just outside the convent. It was incredibly extensive, selling everything
from bowls of tejate, an ancient Zapotec drink, to leather shoes and backpacks. This market has
been going on for centuries and photos of the market during the restoration of the ex-convent can
be seen in the museum.

Can’t wait to see what the coming months have to offer!

Hasta luego,
Sarah Leidinger

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Posted in Travels


GLOBAL GRAM- Week of Jan 30

30 Jan

GLOBAL GRAM – Week of Jan. 30

Sarah’s New Blog Post: Third Week in Oaxaca!

Read all about her third week here.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tavola Italiana

Time: 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Description: TAVOLA ITALIANA: Join in for informal Italian conversation hour! Meet at the tables between the Marche and Alice’s Cafe. 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.. For more information contact:

Common Hour – Reports from the Field: Jordan

Time: 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Description: COMMON HOUR SERIES – REPORTS FROM THE FIELD: Jessica Salameh, former Global Village student, talks about her study abroad experience in Jordan. 5:30 p.m., L/L A-161.


Tickets ready for pick-up now! Limited number of FREE TICKETS. Stop by the Living/Learning Director’s Office (205 Commons) to pick up a ticket while supplies last. Office hours: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Le Vent du Nord and Pine Leaf Boys

Time: 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Description: LE VENT DU NORD AND PINE LEAF BOYS: A Québeçois and Cajun double-bill with two of our favorite bands! Le Vent du Nord is one of the most exciting groups to come out of French Canada, and they have the fans, awards, and CD sales to prove it. Fiddle, hurdy-gurdy, guitar, accordion, and percussive feet combine to create a unique sound that makes you want to celebrate, dance, and laugh with joy. The four-time Grammy Award-nominated Pine Leaf Boys from Lafayette, Louisiana, are part of a new generation of musicians that brings a youthful exuberance to traditional Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco music. Ambassadors of regional American Music, the Pine Leaf Boys have performed in Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem, Latvia, Denmark, and Slovenia.

Date & Time: February 17, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Location: Flynn Center for the Performing Arts 153 Main Street, Burlington, VT, United States, 05401

YouTube clip:

Limited number of FREE TICKETS (normally $25.00). Stop by the Living/Learning Director’s Office (205 Commons) to pick up a ticket while supplies last. Office hours: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.

*Passport students can use this event for the Passport class.
**The Lane Series requests that you arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled show time so tht the performance can start on time.

The Beaux’ Strategem

Time: Various dates/times in Feb.
Description: THE BEAUX’ STRATEGEM:The original version of The Beaux’ Stratagem, written by George Farquhar, was first performed in London in 1709. It was later adapted by Thornton Wilder in 1939, though it was not finished. That opportunity, passed on from Wilder’s estate, went to Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor), who completed work on it in time for the new version’s debut in 2006.
Three centuries in the making, the play is a raucous romp through the minefields of love, money and marriage. It is an evening full of careful scheming, double dealing and a good bit of old-time swashbuckling bravado, proving that when it comes to matters of the heart anything can happen no matter how carefully planned.



Third week in Oaxaca!

30 Jan

Hola todos!

Although this is my third week here in Oaxaca, I still have many things to learn about the culture
and people of Mexico. For example, towards the end of the week, we traveled to a village outside
the city called Santa Ana del Valle and spent a night there. There, we stayed with indigenous
families in the town and learned the ins and outs of the politics of a Zapotec village.

Unlike those in the greater Mexican communities, these indigenous villages have a much
more communal aspect. As a member of the village, a person has an obligation to his
community to work a certain number of years for the greater good; this is termed tequio. The
man that gave us a tour of the town, a highly respected member of the community, told us that 15
years of tequio is required of each person in the town and is usually begun at the age of 18. This
work may include maintaining the local museum, working in the fields around the town, or
organizing events at the local church.

This tequio is unpaid work that each member of the village
is obligated to do as part as a service and, if refused, the person’s land may be seized and shared
among members of the village. In more recent years, a number of community members have
gone to the United States to work due to the lack of jobs available to them in Mexico. Because of
this, a new rule has been made where those abroad can pay others in the community to do their
tequio for them. After learning all this, I talked to my local host mother that night who shared her
views of this system. Though she liked the system, she felt that it was not practical because they
are not paid for this work and yet, they still need to earn money for food and other goods.

The next day we went to a local weaver who taught us the processes of collecting wool,
dyeing it using natural coloring agents and weaving rugs from the colored wool. The following
day, we went to a traditional medicine woman who explained how she uses plants and natural
remedies to cure health problems like sadness, fright, headaches, fear, anger and diabetes.
Though it was hard to believe this alternate form of medicine, later we were surprised by her
ability to pick up on vibes from people in the group.

Though we only spent one night in Santa Ana del Valle we learned so much about
indigenous politics and economic practices. We learned so much in such a short amount of time
that I am excited to see what is in store for the coming weeks.


Hasta luego,
Sarah Leidinger


Posted in Travels

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