Huatulco Life was inspired by people with a passion for Huatulco and the Mexican lifestyle. It is a place to find out more information about the region and enjoy the beauty of the Oaxacan coastline through the photo gallery. From time to time, other interesting tidbits about Mexico make their way into the pages of this blog. Enjoy!

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

5 Days in Oaxaca - Day Four

Oaxaca Diary by Renée Netzel

Our fourth day in Oaxaca was church & museum day! Oaxaca is filled with numerous churches, museums and galleries so there is no shortage of sites to see. On this day, we focused our efforts on the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán and the Santo Domingo Cultural Center located right next to it.

As its name implies, the church and monastery were started by the Dominicans in the 1570's and it continued to be constructed over a period of 200 years! A full restoration was since completed in 1999. Over $12 million pesos were spent on the church (about $1 million USD) and its fairly plain facade hides a sparkling interior...very sparkling, in fact, as we learned that its highly decorated interior includes more than 60,000 sheets of 24-karat gold leaf...amazing!

Inside the church, ornate statues, stained glass, and stucco flowers set off the extravagantly gilded walls & ceiling. On the south side of the church is chapel called the Capilla del Rosario, which features numerous Madonnas in various sizes. And maybe one of the most impressive features is a beautifully painted family tree of St. Dominic on the ceiling just inside the entrance.

 After exploring the church, we wandered next door to the museum. The rooms that formerly constituted the monastery have now been converted to the Santo Domingo Cultural Center, which was founded with the help of Oaxacan-born artist Francisco Toledo. The museum guides visitors through Oaxaca's history and for a small fee of $51 pesos each ($4 USD) you can view a vast and impressive collection of pre-Columban artifacts. The museum displays chronologically arranged antique art objects uncovered in the many archeological sites throughout the State of Oaxaca. Most of the rare and ancient art comes from the Classic period,  such as burial urns that depict the Zapotec God of Rain and those that depict the Mixtec God of Fire. Additionally you can see vessels made in series that feature symbols of water, corn, the planets, and the stars. The highlight of the museum is the display featuring the contents of Tomb 7 from Monte Albán...over 500 pieces of jewelery and other artifacts uncovered in the 1930's (check out my blog about Monte Albán for more on this). Very cool to see in person!

From this church and monastery, we wandered on to our next stop...the former convent of Santa Catalina, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and now the 5-star Camino Real Hotel. It is certainly a unique hotel, maybe the most interesting in all of Mexico. Originally built in 1576,  the convent was a grand colonial property restored in the 1970's to retain some of its former graces and then converted into luxury accommodations...much more posh than the nuns were used to back then, I am sure.

As you walk down the corridors you can see fading original frescos, almost 400 years old, and original stone columns & arches. There are several nice courtyards filled with flowers, including a garden called Los Lavaderos which features an old stone gazebo and built-in wash basins where the nuns would do their daily washing. It was a very quiet and peaceful place to relax and try to imagine what it was like there so long ago.

After a full day of museums, churches, and convents we needed a break and we were thirsty! We, very ironically, found our way to a small bar on the main pedestrian walkway called "Nude". This particular bar was known for it's drink specials and we were each promptly treated to a large plastic cup holding one full litre of gin and tonic...yup, a litre of booze & mix for each of us and the total bill was only $8 USD. Needless to say we were happy after that find!

Our day ended with a quiet dinner at Los Pacos, famous for their delicious mole sauces, and then an early night to bed...more to explore the next day!

...and please remember to visit the gallery for more photos!

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