Everything is spot-on—the dark red and gold walls, the columns encircling the courtyard with the tree in the center, the retractable roof, the lights and candles in their unusual but organic vessels. The waiters look like hot, young intellectuals, especially the bearded one with the inky black hair, and even better, they have genuine smiles. This restaurant could be in New York, except it’s so much better than its NY equivalent would ever be, if only because a NY-version would be mobbed with hipsters and you’d have to wait 2 hours for a table.
Friday night, I wanted to celebrate, though I wasn’t quite sure what. My full day at the market in Ocotlan? How thrilled I am that I’m becoming friends with my very cool Spanish teacher? For whatever reason, I arrived at La Biznaga, which means “cactus,” happy at all the world. It didn’t matter that my glass of Chilean merlot was a little too brassy. The salsa that came with my “Tres Mixtecas” quesadillas was, like my waiter, just beautiful. (Have I mentioned how cute the waiters are?) The prices at La Biznaga are higher than average, except that for less than $4.50, you can get full on an appetizer of three quesadillas, of mushrooms, peppers, and squash blossoms, with a bit of black bean puree garnished with queso fresco. The food is sincerely Oaxacan, but with a light, modern hand.
I was so happy to sit there, scribble in my journal, and reread these words from the “Labyrinth of Solitude” by Octavio Paz:
“I remember that in Spain during the civil war I had a revelation of ‘the other man’ and of another kind of solitude: not closed, not mechanical, but open to the transcendent…in those faces—obtuse and obstinate, gross and brutal, like those the great Spanish painters, without the least touch of complacency and with an almost flesh-and-blood realism, have left us—there was something like a desperate hopefulness, something very concrete and at the same time universal. Since then I have never seen the same expression on any face…
The Spanish dream was broken and defiled later, not because it was Spanish, but because it was universal, and, at the same time, concrete, an embodied dream with wide, astonished eyes…Anyone who has looked Hope in the face will never forget it. He will search for it everywhere he goes, among all kinds of men. And he will dream of finding it again someday, somewhere, perhaps among those closest to him. In every man there is the possibility of his being—or, to be more exact, of his becoming once again—another man.”