Weekend 19: Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

I waited until after my program officially ended to travel to the forbidden city of Oaxaca. Back in August (seems so long ago) at the orientation in Mexico City, some Fulbrighters had to be reassigned to a new city because of uprisings against teachers. Throughout my 4 months, there was nothing that I heard about that situation, but that does not mean it could still be dangerous in some parts of the State of Oaxaca.

I was there only a few days, but the experience was worth wait. First of all, the weather during the last week of December was perfect sun and shorts weather. I insisted on wearing my linen shorts everyday because when I get to New York tomorrow, my tanned legs won’t see those shorts until mid-June.

Oaxaca has many historical places outside the city, such as the Mayan Ruins of Monte Alban and the “frozen waterfall”. Both of these places were impressive because of their (respectively) historical significance and natural beauty. Within the city, there are museums. However, I felt that I had just spent the past 4 months visiting what feels like close to 20 museums and I was saturated. I loved every museum I visited, but the few in Oaxaca will have to wait until my next visit.

What’s actually good here are the artisan crafts and the food. I liked the woven woolen rugs and the intricately painted wooden menagerie of animals. I was able to squeak into a morning cooking class on Thursday (as there was one more space to make a group of 10!) to experience the complicated process of making Black Mole. Now I know that about 30 ingredients go into the making of that sauce and it’s not only chocolate that gives it that flavorful depth and complexity . It took several hours, but the meal was worth the group effort at the end. Also, I will just buy a jar of Black Mole and call it good.


Weekend 14: Campeche City

What an amazing find! The State of Campeche certainly tops my list of surprises in Mexico. It seems to be a given that the western region of the Yucatán is a bit “sleepy” relative to other places in the country. What I discovered is that Campeche City is vibrant, even if it is not as robust as other cities I’ve visited. In 1999, UNESCO declared and listed Campeche City as a Cultural Patrimony of Humanity due to its preservation of the fortified walls from the XVII century.


What Campeche does not lack is history! Founded in the mid-1500’s, it prospered because of the tremendous value of its timber resources. The palo de tinta (or palo de Campeche) is wood that gives off a reddish to dark-blue ink. This quality was known by the Maya’s, but completely exploited by the Spanish entrepreneurs who invaded the Yucatán. Not to be outdone, pirates from England, France, and the Netherlands robbed the galleons transporting these logs and other precious commodities en route to Europe.

Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum L.), highly prized as a dyestuff for the European textile industry, attracted British smugglers who settled mainly in Laguna de Términos and Belize, where they were a threat to local trade.

Museo Baluarte de la Soledad (Mayan Architecture)

This museum is worth visiting for the information-packed videos when you reach the fourth display area (dealing with funerary customs of the ancient Maya). I appreciated the explanation of they type of tools used to construct the pyramids as well as the use of these buildings.

The ancient Mayas employed hammers, wedges, and chisels made of stone or wood. Limestone blocks were joined with stucco (lime and sand mix), also used to surface buildings with painted platers of different colors, and to model figures adorning both facades and inner spaces. Building decoration also included stone sculptures, as well as hieroglyphic inscriptions and carvings on lintels, columns, and jambs.

“The distribution and shape of decorative elements (such as this winged figure) varied by region and through time. In Campeche, at least four regions have been identified with distinctive architectural styles that could indicate political or cultural exchange networks. In all of these cases, Maya cities consisted of two basic areas: a civic-ceremonial precinct, where rulers lived and conducted their administrative and ritual activities, and a residential area located on the outskirts of the city, where the rest of the people dwelled.”

Zona Arqueológica de Edzná


Museo de Piratas

The disturbing image in the lower left of the collage is from the small Pirate Museum. It is not to be missed! You can get through the displays in about 20 minutes, but you’ll come out with a deeper historical perspective and understanding of a topic that other museums gloss over. Because of the lucrative lumber trade between the Yucatán and Europe, piracy flourished, too. Legends have been spun from the seemingly heroic feats of these men, but that is not to glorify the cruelty they meted to those they captured and killed. This museum has realistic effigies of pirate prisoners that will startle you. A wall of pirates (left) and defenders (right).

Museo Cultural de Campeche

I loved seeing the handicrafts that the Campechanos had to innovate to use as payments for their land grants. Did you know that the Mayans were essential indentured workers.

The Mayans had to deliver payment in goods to the encomenderos (land grant holders), the Spanish Crown, and civil and ecclesiastical authorities. These products included cotton mantles woven by the women, was and honey, collected by the men from the stingless bees int he region’s jungles; in addition to corn, beans, chilies, hens, fish, and iguanas.

Salt had to also be mined nearby to supply two major industries: hide and leather work, and salting and preserving meat and fish to feed the people on the galleons.

Centro Cultural Casa No. 6

Items pictured are typical to Campeche!


Art Abounds in Monterrey

Besides being an important town for industries, Monterrey has three excellent museums. I had a chance to walk through Mexican history once more at the Museo de Historia Méxicana. It was yet another amazing museum curated by, I presume, the department of culture. I was not disappointed.

Of course, I wanted to know how this city in the north portrayed the indigenous peoples. My expectations were albeit, low before arriving just because more indigenous people populated the southern part of Mexico. I was wrong in presuming this! The displays about the indigenous people were balanced, not unilateral. The storyline was succinct yet many artifacts were set in modern casements. I liked the “Olmeca Babies”! See them in the collage on this post, top right corner.

In the center of the Macroplaza is a fountain that hints of those in Versailles, one in particular where the Neptune god is carried out of the waters on a chariot pulled by stallions. The fountain in Monterrey might be of Poseidon being pulled across the waters by wild horses. He holds his trident high. It can all bee seen from the floor of my hotel room.


Week 7: UNAM-CEPE Intensive History

Class presentations: Philippines & Mexico

The long and close relationship between the Philippines and Mexico was a surprise for me to discover for myself during this intensive history class. I was born in Manila, Philippines and my family emigrated to the United States when I was five years old. My parents raised my 3 brothers, 1 sister, and me “in the American way” by putting us all the way through school, from kindergarten through university; but at home our upraising was very much “in the Asian way”. The emphasis was doing well in school (so we would have a greater chance in doing well in life). I recall both my mom and dad telling stories of life in the Philippines, but basically keeping the narrative on our relatives, particularly those who had claim to fame in the realm of the Social Good. Ironically, I came to Mexico and learned more about my family, too .

Ironically, I came to Mexico and learned more about my family.

On day one, our class assignment was announced: Relate an aspect of Mexico’s history to your country. Luckily, I had two from which to choose. I initially thought that I should present and compare the U.S. education system with that of Mexico. After a few weeks of readings and lectures, I discovered the linkages between Mexico and the Philippines for myself. I was motivated to deepen my knowledge about that relationship through the threads about the Paredes side of my dad’s family spun by my parents. My research resulted in knowing my great aunt Lourdes, great uncle Victorino, and great grandfather Quintín Paredes.

My Aunt Lourdes became my significant person in my class example for my inquiry project on “Significant Digital Stories of First Heroes”. Here is a short version of the story, which you can also watch below.



Hi, I’m Frederic Lim and I’m an English teacher in Harlem, New York. I teach English Language Learners in middle school, ages 11-13. My students are from immigrant families to New York City that come from all over the world. I am also a volunteer in rural health in Guatemala. I created an organization that empowers women with acupuncture training so they can better care for their patients.

Philippines and Mexico

Historically, you will notice that both have similar cultures and shared history. Also, my family is from the Philippines. Located in southeast Asia, the Philippines is an archipelago of about 7,000 islands. Mexico has 20% more inhabitants compared to the Philippines. Thee similarities are the Spanish language, religious beliefs, and the name of their currency, the peso.

The Spanish Ruled, 1521-1898

For about 377 years, from 1521-1898, Spain ruled the Philippines; for about 300 years, from 1521-1821, Spain ruled Mexico. Around 1521, different settlers arrived on both countries and met the indigenous rulers: Magellan in the Philippines and Cortés in Mexico. Then 30 years later, commercial trade between Manila and Acapulco developed, which lasted for 250 years. This is the basis for the similarities of culture shared.

The Galleon Trade brought many goods and people from Manila and Acapulco and back! A short list includes silver, cacao, Spanish wine, wool, and the red conchinilla (potato bug) for dying threads and yarns from Mexico. From the Philippines (and trading parters in Asia) came gold powder, wax, leather and textiles.

This famous image of the religious relic of the Virgin of Guadalupe hangs in the San José Parish Church. According to historian Prof. Miguel Meneses, the image is inlayed with mother of pearl and is framed in sold silver. It came from Manila on a galleon to Mexico in the 1550’s.

U.S. Commonwealth, 1935-1946

Only 150 years later, the Philippines became a commonwealth country of the United States. The Philippines wanted to be a country, but the United States wanted to make sure that it could function as a country, so they agreed to a 10 year relationship. The president under the commonwealth was Manuel Quezon. He was received by Mexico President Cardenas on an official state visit even though the Philippines was not yet officially independent.


Before his visit to Mexico Quezon was in Washington, D.C. where he appointed my great-grandfather, Quintín Paredes, as the Resident Commissioner (Español) (English) from the Philippines in the United States. Both Quezon and Paredes created social programs for the poor in the Philippines. They also allowed Jewish refugees to settle in the Philippines, the only country in Asia to welcome them during the second world war.

My Aunt Lourdes

Quintin Paredes had a daughter (Ines), who was my grandmother. Her son is my dad, who married my mom. My grandmother Ines had a brother, Ignacio, who fought for the British Air Force during the war. They had a brother, Victorino Paredes, who eventually became an ambassador from the Philippines to Mexico. They had a sister, Lourdes Paredes, who became a justice. She is one of my First Heroes in this significant digital story!

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I am inspired by by Aunt Lourdes because she became the first justice of the Philippines Court of Appeals. She defended equal right for all, especially women. She gained infamy for a high-profile decision she had to make in the 1960’s. You can read about it here in a blog about the incident..


Aunt Lourdes was born in 1910 to the Quintín Paredes and Victoria Peralta de La Union in Manila. She studied Philosophy and Law in the Philippines and Madrid, Spain. She also wrote and published books, did research on women’s rights and property laws. She even represented the government of the Philippines at international conferences around the world, trying to make the world a better place. Someday, I want to travel to places like Stockholm and represent the underprivileged in Geneva.


As you can see, my great-aunt Lourdes’ story is significant to me because now I teach students to be globally competent, and I teach groups of women so that the world is a little better place to live.


Resources about Justice Lourdes Pardedes San Diego


Week 1: UNAM-CEPE Intensive History

Today I began my intensive history class, taught by my Fulbright advisor, Maestro Juan Pablo Vivaldo (top left,p ictured in the middle). The class focuses on the Porfiriato Era leading up to the Mexican Revolution (1884-1920). This is the period in Mexican history that defines what Mexico’s culture, society, and economy are like now. The two close-ups from the famous murals of David Siquieros (top right) depicting Porfiro Días and the Mexican Revolutionaries. Of course, all this historical backdrop is helpful for my project!

I’ll be adding more about his topic in the weeks ahead. It should be a pleasant journey!

Week 1: Pre-columbian, Mesoamerican history in Mexico

Week 2: Porfiriato, part 1 Rise to Power

Week 3: Porfiriato, part 2 Society & Culture

Week 4: Porfiriato, part 3 Fall from Grace; Revolution, part 1 Rumblings

Week 5: Revolution, part 2 Momentum from North and South

Week 6: Revolution, part 3 Pancho Villa & Emiliano Zapata

Week 7: Final comments; class presentations

Week 1: Pre-columbian History

Who was in Mesoamerica before Christopher Columbus ran into it?

Today’s post seeks to dispel the common misconception that the Mayan, Aztecs and Incas were the only empires that existed in the Americas before European settlers arrived.

Today’s lecture was about who was already populating the territory called Mesoamerica, which today is in the country of Mexico. Pause: Click on a link to maps of Mesoamerica: en español and in English. What do notice about the territory of Mesoamerica compared to what is Mexico now?

Pre-Classic Period (2000-400 B.C.)

The Cultures Before the Olmecas

Before the Aztecs founded Tenochtitlan (today’s Mexico City) in the year 1325 A.D., there were four important civilizations tooling around the area, even before the first one (Olmecas) came to the scene around the 1200’s B.C. First there were the Hohokams (Southeast U.S.) from 2000 B.C. and the Adenas (midwest U.S.), then the Mogollons (Arizona-New Mexico), and the Anazai (Colorado-New Mexico).

The reason these were important was their abilities to organize their communities as social heirachy in settled areas with agriculture, build dwellings, and develop trade routes. (I’m not an archeologist; I’m merely condensing what I’m learning in class, museums, and books!)


Olmeca Culture (1000-600 B.C.)

The Olmecas were in present-day Veracruz. They reached their splendor between 1000-600 B.C. mainly because they luckily settled in an area made fertile by favorable rain patterns. They created great commercial centers based in La Venta (find a map on the Internet) and organized their society into castes of priests (who administered) and warriors (who kept the order).  This made them the most important in Mesoamerica during the Pre-Classic period. Also, this is the culture that is famous for creating the huge heads of stone.

World perspective: During the long reign of the Olmecas, these were events also happened: Carthage founded (814); First Olympic Games (776); Height of Assyria (750’s); Rome founded (752); Boo-duh born (563); and Confusions born (551).

More about the fascinating Olmecas (en español), please click link.

Classic Period (400-900 B.C.)

Teotihuacan civilization

Together with the Mayans (in present-day Guatemala-Yucatán) [along with Romans (in present-day Italy) and Hans (in present-day China)], the Teotihuacan civilization flourished after the Olmecas, their height of splendor from 100-600A.D.

Notice that the demarcation of time for "Periods" are Maya-centered, so there are overlaps with other civilizations.

The Teotihuancans was based just northeast of present-day Mexico City, an area that the Aztecs eventually sacked because of its agricultural potential, strategic trade routes from the valley basin to the gulf, many caves considered sacred, and obsidian mines (a highly-valued mineral). Two other rising civilizations coexisted: Monte Albán in present-day Oaxaca and El Tajín in present-day Veracruz.

Did you know? Despite their majestic civilization, the Teotihuacans did not have a system of writing!

Growth Phases I: 150-200 B.C. Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun (and Cholula Pyramid both) started to be built. II: 200-400 Moon Pyramid. III: 400-600 Height of population at 125,000.

(insert pic of timeline here)

The Mayan civilization (400-900 A.D.)

Mention Roman Empire (26BC-476AD)

Post-Classic Period (900-1521 A.D.)

The Toltecs, then the Aztecs, Incas, and Mongols (Wha-what?!)

Toltec Empire

Dominates much of Central Mexico (900-1100)

Historical “Überblick”

My first weekend in Mexico, I lost no time in taking a walk through the historical district to get a historical perspective, overview (or überblick), of the famous buildings that withstood the Mexican’s tumultuous history from before its independence through the Mexican Revolution.

I walked with fellow Fulbright researcher Maria Luisa, who is from Mexico. She used to live in the area and recommended me to find a place in the neighborhood. I might since it’s so full of history and interesting places to visit, such as the Casa de los Azuelos (House of Tiles).

I also enjoyed lunch with UAM-I English language professor Dr. Javier and UNAM historian lecturer Juan Pablo, advisors on my project, at the terrace restaurant overlooking El Zócalo (constitution plaza). The learned professors explained to me how this very place was where many explosive events in Mexico’s tumultuous history ignited! I’m excited to find out more in the intensive course on history, which begins next week.

Embassy of the Philippines Tour

After the ceremonial closing of the Fulbright Orientation in Washington, Ms Maricor of the Cultural Section of the Philippine Embassy invited me on a private tour. It was a happy occasion as well as educational because she took me through a short version of the history of the Philippines in the Hall of Presidents. This hall housed the embassy’s collection of portraits of the past to current presidents of the Philippines, painted mostly by national artist, Ferdinand Amorsolo. Presidential portraits of Manuel Roxas, Manuel L. Quezon, and Sergio Osmeña were made specifically for the Philippine embassy in Washington D.C.


The image on the bottom left in black & white is of my great-grandfather, Quintín Paredes, who lived in Washington from 1936-38 as the first Resident Commissioner from the Philippines when it was a commonwealth territory of the United States, before its independence in 1946. The painting at the top right is of the Philippine Military Academy, from where my dad graduated in the 1960’s before we emigrated to the United States.

I haven’t been back to the Philippines since our family converged there in November 2010 for our mom’s funeral in Manila, so I was grateful for the invitation by the embassy to “walk the path”of my great-grandfather even for a few minutes.