A stranger in a strange land: Scenes from my life in Oaxaca

 There’s so much I want to share about my adventures as an American expat artist living in Mexico.

I moved here in February, 2012 and am gradually finding my way.

How does that go? A stranger in a strange land.

When it comes to me, or Mexico, I’m the stranger of the two. Just ask my sisters. They know.

Which is probably why I feel so at home here. Anyway…

Here is a little taste of my neighborhood…


Monsoon season here in Oaxaca. Dramatic afternoon thunderstorms along with amazing golden light of the magic hour.

This was shot outside my studio (taller) on Calle M. Bravo near the corner of Porfirio Diaz. I can never remember the name of this particular church, as it one of many that surround Santo Domingo, seen below.

Which brings me to a question: Why do we need many giant cathedrals across the street from one another?

It’s kind of like a colonial Starbucks thing…or what?


This is my walk to the organic farmer’s market. Those arches on the left are the stone aqueduct, built in the 1700’s to bring water from those hills you see in the background into Oaxaca City.

Um…the access to drinking water has not improved here since then. All drinking water is bottled. You cannot turn on the faucet and drink or cook with it. Something I believe I forget from time to time when filling up the tea kettle. oops!

I love to walk along, and on top of the aqueduct (no longer functioning). People have built apartments beneath the arches, and many of the arch ways lead to lovely, hilly pedestrian streets. Great place for a little cycling…rented a bike last Sunday and tooled around.




Love peeling paint on adobe walls. A subject that comprises many of my vacation photos, much to the utter boredom of family members, I’m sure.

I always think the best “vacation” photos are postcards — which I can buy — if I want the typical touristy type snaps. Especially since I’m shooting with an iPhone.

I really took this photo, to illustrate wayfinding in Mexico. Note the handy directional sign arrows on the building. Which way? What do they mean? This sums up my experience orienteering in Mexico. Dazed and confused. And that’s without the tequila.


…speaking of orienteering. This is what I’m talking about.

These are house numbers. TWO different numbers, wildly different numbers, on the same house.

My uncle calls this the “Harry Potter track seven and three quarters phenomenon”.

We enter it often here in Mexico. Happily.

Just avoid sending me anything via the post office. I’m not really certain what the Mexican postal system is all about. A mystery I will likely keep filed under M. For, you know, mystery.



Santo Domingo. I take so many pictures of this icon of Oaxaca.

Right now I’m liking the angles I get by lying down on the sidewalk.

Have you ever seen a church with a front yard full of Agave? I didn’t think so.

Someday, I hope someone will take a picture of the people watching me, bemused by the gringa loca lying on the ground shooting photos of the sky.

If you’re in my neck of the woods, I mean Agave, then lemme know. Maybe we can photo safari together.


Have you ever moved to another country because you loved their use of color and pattern and design?

Or planned your travel itinerary around art or textiles? If so, we are soul mates and I hope you send me a postcard (I have a sturdy U.S. address for that).

This is a shot of my kitchen table. I am crazy for Mexican oilcloth, and this style of painting vases in glossy bright colors. The daisies came from my walk to the Farmer’s market.

And finally…

Speaking of bright flowers:

On Monday I am interviewing the lovely and amazing Susannah Conway about her new book, this I know: notes on unraveling the heart

Have you read it yet? It’s un-put-down-able! I read my copy in one big gulp!

Are you already a fan of Susannah’s brilliant work melding photography and writing and creativity and healing?

What questions and topics would you like me to ask her when we talk? We’re talking on Monday, so leave me your ideas in the comments over the weekend.

And send good vibes to the Internet Gods for me, since I’ll be making my call from Mexico to her home in England via Skype so I can record a podcast for your listening pleasure.


8 Responses to A stranger in a strange land: Scenes from my life in Oaxaca

  1. Indigene Gaskin June 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    I’m loving these photos! 🙂 Is the water safe for showering, and if so, why? Ginormous hugs to you! 🙂

  2. Deanna June 4, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    What a beautiful and glorious place to live. Santo Domingo is stunning and I would be shooting it a lot too!

  3. Fran June 4, 2012 at 12:43 am #

    Ah lovely, this brings back happy memories. I was in Oaxaca for 2 months earlier this year Santo Domingo (with his chef’s trousers) is a big favourite. Thanks for showing us.

  4. Jennifer May 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    Sis, I am in utter amaze of your photos! They are so beautiful.

    I laughed out loud picturing the locals staring at the “gringa loca” laying on the ground snapping photos. But, you are a trend setter, ya know?! Pretty soon all of the locals will be laying on the ground snapping photos, too!


    • Lisa Sonora May 25, 2012 at 6:57 am #

      @Jennifer: aww, thanks, Baby Sis! You see, I am getting out more. Way out…

  5. Naomi Rifkin May 24, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    Hey there!

    Such amazing photos! I especially like your take on Santo Domingo. It is hard to imagine sky that dramatic!

    Thanks so much for sharing the strangeness!

    • Lisa Sonora May 24, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

      @Naomi: hola! yeah, the sky is off-the-charts drama all the time. I have to be mindful not to fall on my face as I walk around.

      • Naomi Rifkin May 24, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

        lol! But what’s a busted nose in the pursuit of such beautiful strangeness?

        Looking forward to your next post 🙂

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