Friday, January 22, 2016

Guidxi Binnizá – Saint Vincent's

Now it's Juchitáns turn! Well, I talked a lot about the city in my first post about this particular trip, but now it's time to talk about a lot of other interesting stuff about Juchitán that wasn't directly related to special celebrations. As for the city's name, Juchitán, it derives from a Nahuatl word meaning "place of white flowers" (Iztaxochitlán). But in Zapotec the place is called Xhavizende (spelled also Xabizende and Xavizende), which is simply the Zapotec rendering of San Vicente (Saint Vincent).

So, what's interesting about this place besides the rich celebratory culture? Well, for starters, the sense of humour! Like on this shop called "La gran J del istmo" (the isthmus's big J). Now, you could simply assume that the J stands for Juchitán. But given the importance of muxe culture (re-read my post on Juchitáns celebrations for an explanation of muxes), it's hard not to think of this as a play on words, jota (the name of the letter J in Spanish) being a derogatory slang word for "gay", and then the name becoming "the isthmus's great faggot" (pardon my French). 

And then there was an ad that read "Te bajamos todos los pantalones a solo 200 pesos" (we fix all your trousers' length - to make them longer - for just 200 pesos). Now, it simply means that it's an offer on fixing trousers' length. But the fact that they use the pronoun "te" (to you, for you) at the beginning allows for a couple of secondary, funnier readings: we pull down pants on your behalf / we pull down your pants (for just 200 pesos). Again, given the nature of jokes in this area (and of Mexican's in general), it's not far-fetched to think this was done on purpose...




...and, given the town's links to religion, an advertisement painted on a wall and "patrocinado por la sangre de Jesucristo" (sponsored by the blood of Jesus Christ). I mean, wow, that's quite some sponsorship, eh?



Then, the market area! Very alive, very colourful, and full of fantastic images! Crazy colourful fruit, veggie and sweets stands. Stands with cutely arranged totopos (hard, tortilla-like, with little holes) and chocolate paste; impossibly huge coconut tree pods with fragrant flower-like seeds; almost psychedelic hammocks...







...interesting food items like liza fish eggs or iguana soup; traditional dresses and hairstyles; hand-made wax candles, prepared especially for the town's celebrations during, of course, a special candle-making celebration; local tamales...







...and an impossibly big crowd enjoying tlayudas and local snacks right on the night of January 1st.



Then, there's things you can do at night, like enjoying the local version of tlayudas, essentially a ginormous tortilla with lard, meat, cheese, possibly with pickled onion and salsa, folded in half. Accompanied by horchata (because, you know, the place was owned by Protestants? so no alcohol?). And having the fleeting feeling of being back in Asia after catching glimpse of the street with mototaxis (motorbike taxis), the colours, the Asian-like features of people... And what about a dance to Latin music at one of two openly queer bars!





And since we mentioned religion before, and that the name of the town in Zapotec derives from Saint Vincent, there's also the church of San Vicente who, by the way, is a Valencian saint and part of the church's grounds was funded by the Valencian community! And with religion, there's also cemeteries, right? Colourful, city-like, flower-ful cemeteries...






And then so much more stuff, like the mural of a famous muxe on a street wall, the river dividing the town in two with a narrow bridge where the full force of the strong winds could be felt, the cute mototaxis with very socialist-sounding names, the goat skull on the street the day after NYE's dinner...






Then, there are these birds called "zanates" (Mexican grackle) that, mornings and evenings, gather at the main square and make such a loud noise! There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of these creatures! Really, what a spectacle! And to think you'd never know if you walked by in between their leaving and returning!



And the most interesting from a very personal point of view, this sign which was impossible for linguistically-inclined me to read! When I asked my friend, he had no trouble reading the shop's name. But even now, as I look at the photo, I can't for the life of me remember how it was read! You see, I read an "M", then either an "a" with an umlaut slipping off (ä) or an "a" with a Hungarian double acute accent that has been misplaced (a̋). Then? A Greek lambda (λ)? which could also be taken for a palatal "l" like in some Romance or Slavic languages, but with a diacritic for voicelessness (◌̥) that should appear not above, but underneath!? And anyhow, a voiceless palatal "l"? Finally, "d" and "a". At least those didn't look funny! However it was supposed to be read, it was really funny for me to find it so undescifferable!



So, there, that's Juchitán for you. Beautiful it is not. But neither is it forgettable!

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