Postcard from Villa de Etla, Oaxaca, Mexico: Chicken and turkey bagged to go

Etla, a word meaning “land of beans” in Nahuatl, reflects the fertility of the valley located only a few miles from Oaxaca City. The population of Villa de Etla is less than 8,000, and Wednesdays bring all of them and farmers from throughout the valley to market, crowding blocks and blocks with their regional products. Tuk-tuks zip in and out of traffic ensnared by larger vehicles seeking to score scarce parking spots.

So many more vendors than buyers. Rows of women hopefully wait to sell bushel-size bags of plate-size tostadas. Huge bags of dried chiles scent the air surrounding tables of beautiful fresh produce, flowers and dulces.

Pop-up restaurants were packed. The variety of dishes a woman can prepare over a single comal never ceases to amaze. Evidence of the Coke vs. Pepsi war invades the main market house.

The Mister wisely steered me clear of the animal market, knowing I’d want photos of all. But a few vendors of live chickens and turkeys ready for the pot were peppered in among the fresh foods.

The unprepped poultry reminds of my city-raised mother’s (Thelma Virginia Williams Brennan) brief exile to the remote Eastern Shore of Virginia at the beginning of her marriage. She said she would stand out in the backyard holding a squirming live chicken until finally noticed by a sympathetic more experienced neighbor willing to be the executioner.

And, of course, I, a major believer in the middleman enabling the purchase of boneless skinless chicken breasts, proved even less fit for the self-sustaining country lifestyle. Our organic vegetable garden kept caterpillars and deer well-fed. After a year of raising chickens and ducks whose only eggs must have been gathered by raccoons and possums, we found them all a good home before moving from Boerne into San Antonio.

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