SMU in Oaxaca

During winter term 2009-10, seven students will earn Art History/CF credit studying ancient archaeological sites, Colonial art and architecture, folk art and religious fiestas in the Valley of Oaxaca, the Sierra Norte, Sierra Madre del Sur and on the Pacific Coast as part of SMU-in-Oaxaca.

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I’m a bird watcher, watching birds go by

An update from Anne, a graduate student in history with a focus on the U.S. Southwest and Mexico who is doing research on Indian history:

Jan12-1-1.jpg I consider myself to be a bit of bird lover, but I haven’t ever been bird-watching per se, until today.

We traveled by boat through the Manialtepec Lagoon, along with our guide, Michael, a specialist of birds of the region. At first, it was difficult to make out some of the birds he identified, let alone to even find them in the vast landscape.

With our binoculars, however, we were able to see the slightest detail of birds hundreds of feet way, if not further, and they proved to be magnificent creatures. These regional birds play an important role in the ecosystem here, and to see them in their natural habitat is breathtaking.

With the wind hitting our faces as we glided along the lagoon, we felt caught up in the moment. We saw birds such as blue herons, scissor-tailed fly-catchers and, my personal favorite, of course, the brown booby.

These habitats, especially that of the fish in the lagoon, are essential to the local economy here. Numerous families make their living from catching various fish in the depths of the water. For those fish the villagers do not want, the birds, such as the pelicans, were eager to take off their hands.

Jan12-2.jpg Eventually, we came to a small beach where a humble restaurant stood and we took our lunch break. The cooks prepared our food on an outside burner, while those of us who wanted to could swim or stroll the beach at a leisurely pace. What a relaxing and rewarding first half of the day!

Once we arrived back home, we had the remaining day to ourselves. Some chose to lie in the sun, while others worked on journal entries. We all gathered once again to eat dinner at our hotel and to give oral presentations in front of the group. I spoke on the indigenous art markets, while another student impressed us with his knowledge on Structure J at Monte Alban. The interesting history behind woodcarving was also discussed. Another student moved us with her understanding of cooperative communities and their role in local identities, which really distinguishes this region from the United States, providing us with a strong sense of place.

With our oral exams behind us, we looked forward to our last day in Oaxaca – and our last day together as a group.

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