My experience traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico

Mikha'El

Jedi
Okay, this may end up being a lengthy post but I will try to be as succinct as possible.

In another thread I explained that I was traveling to Mexico to participate in my little sister's wedding. Why she decided to get married there is beyond me and a few of my friends and family who were on the trip privately agreed with me that it was not a good idea.

I will do this in a play by play manner. There is a tldr; at the end if you want a brief synopsis.

Day One: My sister required that everyone going to the wedding provide a negative Covid test. No problem, I knew that I was negative. I agreed to take a home antigen test. However, I live in a rather rural area and I spent two hours trying to get a hold of one. Sadly every store in my area was sold out and I had to drive about 45 minutes to another city in able to procure a test. So, about five hours later I took my test and recorded the whole process in case anyone doubted. (My older sister was the most fearful in the group and I wanted to be able to shut her down if needed)

Day Two: I was flying out of Los Angeles directly to Oaxaca city. I decided to spend the night before the flight in Los Angeles as it is a two and a half hour drive from my home and the flight was at 1:30 pm.

I will digress at this point to say that Los Angeles has definitely declined dramatically in the three years since I had been there last. People walk the streets, some masked but most not, smoking weed and drinking openly. The traffic is insane and people seem to have lost most of their concern for driving in a safe manner. Just walking from my hotel to the gas station (about two city blocks) for some beer and smokes I witnessed three separate vehicles blatantly run red lights. One time this occurred right in front of a police vehicle with no consequence.

There are signs everywhere advertising Covid and 'proper' safety techniques. At the same time, it seems that life is moving along like normal. The sheep wear their masks and the locals seem all too interested in doing what they want, when they want. I did not detect any sense of panic or fear, but I kept to myself for the most part.

Day Three: I prepare for my flight and I park my car in a private long term garage and get a shuttle to the airport. All of the people working this lot and the driver of the shuttle are all wearing masks, but other than that, it was business as usual.

Los Angeles airport is a crazy place under normal circumstances and during this 'pandemic' it only seemed minimally more crazy. There were masked people and employees everywhere but no control check points, no temperature checks and no need to provide any proof of vaccination or negative tests.

Mexico does not require any special proof of being Covid negative or vaccination status prior to traveling there.

I approached the Volaris (Mexican airline) counter and I was required to swap out my Covid bandana that I normally wear to a full KN95 surgical style mask. This was my first direct contact with any type of restrictions or requirements. I dutifully donned the mask and completed my check-in.

Let me say that my bandana is infinitely more comfortable than the mask that they provided for me and it smells better. The provided mask had a distinct odor to it and it was very unpleasant. It is also a lot harder to breathe while wearing that thing and I needed to walk pretty far to get to my gate. It was the type of mask that has elastic ear straps and I wear glasses, so by the time I got to my gate I was sweaty, was having trouble breathing deeply and my ears had been rubbed raw.

I hadn't eaten anything at this point as I was planning to get something to eat while waiting the three hours until my flight started boarding. Apparently there is some sort of food shortage at the airport because all of the eateries were closed. So I sat, hungry, tired and sweaty waiting for my flight to board. I managed to get some snacks from a vending machine and a bottled water.

All the while I watched the masses of people passing by my gate. I am an accomplished people watcher and I could tell without much trouble that EVERYONE was absolutely on edge. There was a palpable emotion in the air and that emotion was aggravation. You could almost taste it on the air.

Not unusual for people traveling internationally but it was definitely ramped up with the new requirements and restrictions.

There is a constant bombardment of announcements throughout the airport of the importance of vaccinating and the 'threat' of Covid. Signs and banners assault you at every turn.

One thing that I noticed a lot were people that were nursing drinks and food in order to have an excuse to remove their masks. Other than those people, everyone was masked up.

The flight began boarding eventually and we all proceeded on to the plane. There were no ubiquitous sanitation stations, as I like to call them, stocked with alcohol lotion or temperature readers as I expected there to be. Only the constant requirement of being masked up.

The flight was rather uneventful. We got all the standard safety information as usual and the plane left the tarmac. The only difference due to Covid being announcements over the plane's speakers of when we needed to be masked up. Basically always unless eating or drinking. The snack service proceeded uneventfully and about ten minutes after completed we got an announcement telling us to replace our masks and that they needed to be covering our mouths and noses.

Looking around a few times I did not see any cheaters, everyone seemed content to breathe their own dirty air. I devised a way to wear the mask with it slightly away from my face and managed to get some 'fresh' air. There were announcements that told us how the air was recycled every three minutes using HEPA filters. (Then why do we need the masks?, I wondered)

The flight was uneventful and we landed in Oaxaca on time. We proceeded through customs. While in line an attendant moved along handing out declaration forms. The forms basically asked us if we had ever contracted Covid or if we had been in contact with anyone diagnosed with Covid. The funny thing is that the forms were already completed with all the no answers checked off. All we had to do was fill in our personal information.

After this I traveled to a restaurant to meet up with the rest of the wedding party. We ate some food and had some drinks and then parted ways to get to our hotels.

Day Three: I wake up in a foreign land feeling just a bit out of place and meet up with my family for breakfast. The only thing that is noticeable about Covid is that everyone masks up religiously. There is an issue with people getting vaccines down there and it seems to me that they are using masks as a way to prevent being locked down. Third world countries get hit especially hard by being locked down and it is fairly obvious that the common people are very concerned about that happening. Other than that it seemed that people were going about their daily routines as usual.

The wedding party had a plan to visit Monte Alban that day and the trip went off with no particular issues. Masks everywhere, but again business as usual. That area relies heavily on tourism and it is easy to see that they have no plans to allow that industry to suffer.

Our tour guide was masked and a few times he removed his mask in order to be better heard.

Day Four: The day of the wedding! The ceremony which was performed by a Zapotec Shaman was actually very interesting and had a definite mystical edge to it. I was surprised that my sister decided to have an ancient ceremony like this performed as she, and the most of my family, are not especially spiritual and are Protestants for the most part. I feel that I and my spiritual cousin were the only ones who understood the amazing spirituality being displayed.

After the ceremony we were supposed to form a sort of parade with the local people who were dressed in amazing ceremonial garb and proceed to the reception. All the while we were served shots of Mezcal, the local favorite alcohol. We all began walking to the doorway and were stopped from moving out onto the street by a sizeable force of the local police who were strapped with assault rifles. They were not going to allow us to have our parade because the majority of us were not masked.

So we stayed where we were and, with amazing music and frenetic dancing, we proceeded to lose our minds a bit and danced like the world was on fire. I lost myself completely to the experience and the liberation I felt in my soul was something I haven't experienced since the old days of desert raves.

After we all got super sweaty and a little drunk on Mezcal, which is a slightly hallucinogenic alcohol, we were allowed to proceed to the reception. All the while being escorted by an armed regiment of local police. A few of my idiot family members didn't get the memo that we needed to proceed through the streets as quickly as possible and lagged behind. Myself and two of the other mentally sufficient people in the group had to corral them and get them moving before the police got involved. There was a serious implication that they could be detained if they did not move along. There is a very high presence of police throughout the city and it is obvious that they mean serious business.

We made it to the reception and the rest of the night proceeded without a hitch. Surprising to me, and this is a personal note, the majority of my family are drug addicts. They are all fairly well off financially and they were doing all kinds of hard drugs (cocaine, ketamine, MDMA). Including some family members that are in their mid-sixties. I never knew this about them and I have to say that it is funny to me that I was always labelled as a drug user and an outsider, the hypocrisy was super real. (I only smoke marijuana, btw)

Day Five: This day was rather uneventful, we had a brunch and spent the rest of the day at the local markets buying trinkets. Most of the booths where locals were selling their wares were outdoors but there was one area that was indoors. At this location, they required a temperature check and sanitizations with alcohol gel.

Day Six: This day we all proceeded out of the city to one of the Palenque, a place where they brew the amazing alcohol that is Mezcal. Masks were required but other than that there were no noticeable restrictions on our behavior. The history of Mezcal and the process by which is produced is intriguing to say the least.

This was also the day that we were required to take Covid tests as the U.S. requires a negative result in order to fly into the country. We were to receive our results via email.

After the tour we decided to go to a small town nearby and visit the local pottery market. At this market, we were required to sanitize and submit to having our temperature taken before proceeding into the outdoor market. We were told by my cousin who lives in Mexico that they are very strict about people wearing masks as it is nearly impossible for them to get vaccines.

By this time, most of us had received our test results, all negative with one exception. We were traveling with a family friend who is in the process of recovering from breast cancer. She was obviously on edge about contracting Covid. Her results were the last to come back and she tested positive.

In order to not be quarantined in Mexico for ten days she took four more tests which all came back negative. She was the victim of a false positive!

We were taking the antigen test via our nostrils.

Day Seven: This was the day that the majority of us were heading back home. I took a taxi to the airport with my negative Covid results in hand. As I was checking in for my flight I was asked to complete another declaration form that I didn't have Covid and didn't interact with anyone that had it. (How I was supposed to know that with any certainty is beyond my comprehension)

I was also asked to provide my proof of a negative Covid test, which was barely glanced at. I boarded my flight and made it safely back to the United States.

Proceeding through American customs, I wasn't asked to provide any proof of negative Covid and no questions were asked about it. I got the standard questions about bringing contraband and/or agriculture into the country. I lied blatantly when they asked if I brought back any alcohol as I had a liter of Mezcal in my checked luggage.

After that I retrieved my car and drove home.

Phew, that was a long post and I applaud you for reading the whole thing.

tldr; I went to Oaxaca for six days, I didn't contract Covid. Mask wearing is the main tactic for prevention and vaccines are hard to get. Police presence is high. Business as usual as far as I could tell. Mezcal is amazing!

That is all.
 
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Zzartemis

Jedi Master
An informative and entertaining essay @Mikha'El. I gasped when the woman tested positive and felt relief that she finally tested negative. I'm so glad you had fun.

Thank you for lending us your eyes and experience in parts of the world not familiar and permitting us to romp vicariously through winding streets of Mexico, Mezcal in hand!

Cheers
 

cholas

Dagobah Resident
Thanks for the entertaining update Mikha. Good to hear it went fairly smooth for you.

We were also not bothered about our negative test results. No one even asked to see them. We easily could have just ignored the whole act.
 

Puma1974

Jedi Council Member
None of the authentic Mezcal that I drank had a worm.

Seriously though, it truly is medicinal.

No gusano? Then you have not drunk Mezcal¡¡ ;-D

Mezcal is commonly manufactured in an artisanal way in Oaxaca and bottled in glass amphorae. One can see "the worm" floating in the bottle.

mezcal-gusano01-768x392.jpg

In fact, the worm is used only to differentiate Tequila from Mezcal. Both tequila and mezcal are obtained from the fermentation and distillation of agave; However, the type of maguey used varies from one drink to another: in the case of tequila, blue agave is used, known as tequilana weber, while, for mezcal, there are different species that can be used.

Maguey worms are eaten by cooking them alive or fried in Mexico, they can be served with guacamole and tortillas or they can also be made into sauces. In Tula they make them with chili peppers and eggs, calling them “Huevos de albañil” in Oaxaca they roast them, grind them by mixing them with salt and different chili peppers which they call “Sal de gusano”.
 

Alejo

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
This is great news, I was thinking about you the other day and I am delighted that you managed to go, have a good time and participate of the spiritual ceremony and be back home without much trouble :)

Thanks for sharing and I bet you feel super relieved now that the whole saga is over and that it turned out to be a lot better than what you initially suspected.
 

Puma1974

Jedi Council Member
Day Six: This day we all proceeded out of the city to one of the Palenque, a place where they brew the amazing alcohol that is Mezcal.

Just as cultural data:

PALENQUE is the name given to traditional mezcal factories in Oaxaca, where mezcal is made in an artisanal way

Palenque-Zompantle-en-Oaxaca.jpg

and is different from Palenque, the Mayan archaeological site in Chiapas

Chiapas-Palenque-web.jpg

and different from Palenque, the place where town festivals and cockfighting are held.

448b2491e5d59843ed3a40861c7efc93.jpg
 

Mikha'El

Jedi
@Puma1974: The Palenque tour was so great. Lolacura is the name of one of the two that we visited and where we got to taste 10 different blends of mezcal. Only one blend that they make has a worm and they told us that they only do that on the request of one of their customers. They have customers (mostly restaurants and bars) from all over the world. They served us jicama, peanuts and quesillo (Oaxacan cheese) along with the Sal de Gusano. It was very tasty.

The cooking, fermentation and distillation process is done completely by hand and using only rudimentary tools. It's interesting to note that they do not really know when mezcal was first created but they told us that the process has been evolving for at least 1,000 years.

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Mikha'El

Jedi
This is great news, I was thinking about you the other day and I am delighted that you managed to go, have a good time and participate of the spiritual ceremony and be back home without much trouble :)

Thanks for sharing and I bet you feel super relieved now that the whole saga is over and that it turned out to be a lot better than what you initially suspected.
Well thank you for thinking of me. :)

I am very relieved and it was amazing to come home to my girlfriend and relate my stories to her.

I did take your advice and when it came time to discuss the 'pandemic'. I kindly excused myself from the conversation. Worked out fine.

I still had a rough time with my family, they simply are not very considerate people, but I was able to mend some bridges and set certain things straight in a very healthy way. Overall I am happy with how that turned out.

Thank you again for inspiring me to be better.
 
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