Excerpts from Amy’s blog:

Amy-NewYear1.jpgNew Year’s eve was very pleasant and exciting. A small group of students including myself sat at a table in the Zocalo, Oaxaca’s main square, to watch the festivities and eat dinner.

A mixture of local Oaxacans and tourists strolled by, with frequent personal visits to our table from some cute children selling candies, bracelets and other goodies. Some of the girls had recently purchased another Oaxacan “specialty”: 15-foot-long balloons, and ended up giving them to the kids.

One little girl in particular came to our table bearing goods to sell. We explained to her that we did not have spare change, but she sang anyway, hoping to receive something in the end (money, candy, etc.). This was adorable: she clearly had the words memorized, the act was down solid … so much that in the moment her voice hit the final note her hand, right on cue, came flying out palm-up ready to get her reward. Absolutely hysterical. Quite the charmer.

On a side note to this, though: There are many, many very young children who sell goods on the streets, some in pairs and some individually. It is hard to resist them, and they are fairly smooth salespeople by age 7. This is a much different scenario than you would find in the U.S., but quite common in Oaxaca for young kids to walk about the streets. Some are seriously without – homeless and lack parents. Others work with their families, alongside them in the street markets.

Oaxaca is said to have a serious homeless population regarding children. I feel there needs to be more emphasis on this situation and more education aimed toward the tourists here, because it is difficult to realize this when simply visiting for a week. Granted there are situations such as this everywhere, but it would be a start for this problem to gain a bit more attention.

We finish our meal, which for dessert includes 12 grapes for good luck rather than the black-eyed peas I usually eat in the States. Midnight actually hits right as we pay our check. The girls and I had purchased very long sparklers and confetti eggs – so we lit our sparklers and broke confetti eggs amongst each other in the Zocalo. This was strikingly similar to the experiences I have had regarding New Year’s elsewhere, but needless to say an incredible experience to be a,part of the festivities in the main area of Oaxaca.

We migrated over to where the band was playing, with fireworks of all sorts dancing around. The environment was a mix of chaos and cultural richness – local Oaxacans were out celebrating with their families, dancing, some marketing and selling goods, streamers and balloons. Everyone was joyous and present – although the festivities were much more tame this year as a result of the recent political instability and uproar Oaxaca experienced only a year and a half before, with the teachers strike in the summer of 2006.

We made our way to the band, consisting of around 10 players, danced a bit and retreated home after celebrating. I felt incredibly blessed to have experienced Oaxaca and the zocalo in this manner. Oaxaca and Mexican culture place much emphasis on holidays, especially the new year, as it signifies renewal and birth.