Monday, January 20, 2014

El Arbol del Tule

 
El Arbol del Tule (Spanish for The Tree of Tule) is a Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum)located in Santa Marie del Tule, a small town in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It is one of the oldest, widest,largest and stoutest trees in the world.
On my recent trip to this area we had a guide take us to view this amazing giant. In 2001 it was placed on the UNESCO tentative list of World Heritage Sites.
My daughter felt this was a must see for me since our  back yard host a giant Siberian Elm and I hold a deep passion for BIG TREES!!
 
 

The tree is said to have an age of over 2000 years and its existence was chronicled by both the Aztecs and the Spanish that founded the City of Oaxaca. It has a height of over 40 meters, a weight of over 701.188 short tons. The trunk is said to be so wide that it takes over 30 adults with arms spread wide to encircled this giant tree. The buildings that surround this tree, which is in the city center, are dwarfed by the tree's massiveness.

For a few Pecos donation, the local school children will take you all around the gnarled tree trunk that resembles many animals and is the source for many local legends and lore.

What I like most about his story is that many years ago the town people were very worried about the health of the tree and started a major effort to water the area. The result was that they planted many beautiful gardens in the immediate area. This has served to beautify the City Center and also help preserve the roots and the overall health of the tree.. The population has benefited from the tree as well due to the fact that tourism based on Arbol del Tule employs over 75% of the municipality's population.
So this beautiful tree has shaped the development and economy of this area for thousands of years, let's hope this will continue for thousands of years to come!!
 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Radish Night (Noche de Rabanos)

We just returned from the most amazing trip. It was to Oaxaca Mexico. This region is so colorful!! The crafts, the food, the celebrations, the people....it truly was a once in life time adventure. One that I would love to repeat!!  You must admit my daughter and son-in-law must really love me if they take me to one of the largest vegetable festivals in the world!!

La Noche de Rabanos is celebrated on the 23rd of December and has been celebrated that day for over 115 years.  This festival by far, is one of the  most impressive vegetable festivals and very unique since it combines agriculture with folk art. It is held in the "zocalo" or city center.

The event consist of  several 100 exhibitors who design sculptures and scenes from specially grown large red radishes. The radishes are grown just for the event in a field next to the airport and are left in the ground for months after the normal harvest time. They become very large and misshaped.( They are heavily fertilized, treated with chemicals and certainly are not for consumption.


     

 
The artisans are professional craftsman and aficionados, but they usually all are radish growers! In addition, many of the sculptured scenes include dried flowers and cornhusks. I loved the use of Strawflowers.
 
We had just arrived late the night before and were having a leisurely breakfast in an open air restaurant the  morning of the competition. We sat fascinated by the flurry of activity directly across from us. At that point most of the competitors were feverishly working on the final touches. We could  not get on the gated walkway but were close enough to take many pictures.
We had read in all the guide books that this event was very popular, so while it was being set up was a great time to get a close up look. Little did we realize how much this advice should be heeded. By 4:00 police barriers had been set up and literally the lines were miles long. A guide told us last year he waited over 3 hours for a very crowded peek .
I was absolutely blown away my the popularity of this festival, young and old waiting in lines for hours on end to look at carved radishes. This sculptures were all different and all very intricate and all of this for a prize of less than $13,000 pesos or approximately $1,300 US. But the most valued prize is the fact that the winners gets their picture, with their creation in the local paper!!
All this on the first day of 10 adventure filled days!  Stay tuned!  

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