I woke this morning excited to be going on my “second” tour of the Ethnobotanical Garden tour.  I was hoping to get the lady I had last year but Carol, a library volunteer and well versed with Oaxacan tours and history, thought Diablo would be my guide.  She was right.
       I left the condo without breakfast so stopped for a coffee and croissant before getting in line.  When breakfast was done, the tour had begun.  Diablo was very knowledgeable but I was having a hard time hearing his soft voice so moved up to front role and stuck by him the rest of the two hour tour.

      It is fascinating for me having grown up in the food and beverage industry.  Squash was grown and ate 12000 years ago in Oaxaca…then Corn 10000 years ago…along with Beans.  These foods, along with Cacti, Potato, and Chilies were exclusive to North and South America and no where else.  The Conquering Spaniards took them back to Europe and to their colonies in the Philippines then on to China and Southeast Asia.
    The gardens are in what used to be Santa Domingo Church grounds until Benito Juarez (shortest President ever in the history of the world) took the church property for the state and the people of Mexico.  In 1994 it was a military barracks and compound.  A Oaxacan artist petitioned the Mexican Government to protect this World Heritage site…and they did.  Money was funneled in and work was begun to restore the compound.  The garden was set aside and plants, trees, bushes, cacti, vegetables, from all over the state of Oaxaca were brought here and given special treatment so they could survive the change in altitude and climate.


    Each plant has a story.  There are parasite insects that grow on the Nopals of the Cacti that when crushed yield a blood that is bright red and is used for a pigment in paint that Renoir used, that was used in dyes for Red robes for the Royalty of the world, for all the Cardinal uniforms in the Catholic Church, to make pink lemonade and Campari.  The Spanish had the Mexicans harvest this and send tons of it around the world. One kilo was worth more than one kilo of pure gold.  Spain returned the money to build these huge Churches not to benefit the Mexicans. Chia seeds came from Mexico.  The Spaniards outlawed them for the Mexican diet because they were too healthy and so were the Mexicans as a result.  The Spaniards wanted the Mexicans weak. The State of Chiapis that borders on Oaxaca…was named because their biggest crop was Chia plants.





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