de notre hôtel.
As you may have read in "The History of the Hotel," Las Golondrinas was created out of an old vecindad—a boardinghouse created from two adjoining upscale residences. In a vecindad, rooms around a central patio were let to families who shared lavatories with the other tenants
We don't know the exact date when the houses became a vecindad; perhaps it was before the earthquake of January 1931. Many buildings collapsed as the quake reached 7.8 on the Richter scale and lasted just over three minutes. It was a tragic day in Oaxaca, for many people died, they say up to ten thousand people, and of those who survived, many fled, mainly to Mexico City, fearing more tremors or the disease and hunger that hit the city after the disaster.
People say that because the hotel is located near "the hill"—towards the Guelaguetza Auditorium and the Cerro del Fortín—tremors are felt less intensely here (maybe because it's a rocky area), so perhaps because of this, the vecindad resisted the quake a little better than elsewhere.
The hotel sits on two lots and was bought that way by Doña Micaela, the former owner of the site and my mother's mother. We don't know whether at that time it was one vecindad with two entrances or two vecindades, each with its own entrance. Doña Mica kept it as a single establishment, however, which was always administered by Doña Petra, who lived there and ran the place. Currently, the entrance to the hotel is on Tinoco y Palacios Stree
My grandmother died in 1985, and in 1989 my mother and father decided to turn the vecindad into a hotel.
We have tried to recreate everyday life in that vecindad, in those courtyards so full of life, through fragments of memories. Here is a “video” reminiscent of those years
We enter the first courtyard; some rooms with doors can be seen, perhaps of wood, and all with roofs of reed. The entrance is spacious but it's not like the current reception room; the floor is earthen and the atmosphere feels and smells of the country, perhaps because often when we went there, the señoras were making tortillas, and they still used portable coal stoves for their fire.
In the courtyards and corridors there are many flower pots, of geraniums, mainly, and some herbs that sprout from the soil; dishes are piled on tables and clothes on clotheslines are drying in the sun. It's in the third courtyard that a grapefruit tree grows and, to reach it, it seems that we count twelve apartments where some seven families live, some with more than five members and others with just single people.
The people greet us when they see us come in: "Good afternoon!" Suddenly, a man with a quick step takes off his straw sombrero and approaches to shake hands with my grandmother. With great respect he asks, "How are you, Doña Micaela?" At that moment a lady is quick to pull some chairs onto the patio and offers cool water to Doña Mica and her companions. My grandmother thanks them for the gesture and sits down for a bit to make some conversation and learn what's new.
While we wait, we hear the footsteps of Doña Petrita coming from the second courtyard to find Doña Mica, for her visit has been expected for a while. Doña Petrita brings something in her hands, perhaps a note where she's written a message for Doña Mica, or the rent of the soldier who lives in one of the rooms off the third courtyard
As a child, I notice other children playing with each other and running back and forth. There is laughter and sometimes a loud cry from some small person having, I think, a tantrum. The chirping of birds in their cages is a melody for the hubbub of the vecindad, and timidly I hear the barking of a dog with a long tail that he wags nonstop and impatiently, sitting and jumping and getting tangled up in the rope that ties him to a chair leg
My grandmother says she wants to say hello to Doña Conchita, who lives in a room on the third courtyard. As we walk there I keep hearing sounds that speak to me of the work of a carpenter, or of water running in the showers, or I smell the leather shoes that the shoemaker fixes meticulously in his tiny workshop in his room.
Doña Petra talks to Doña Micaela about problems with the showers, as they are shared and the tenants need to organize themselves to use them. She mentions the care they need to take, as water is scarce in Oaxaca. On that issue, the authority of Doña Petrita is fundamental; she was never questioned and was always respected and loved in the vecindad. This we saw when she became ill and the tenants devoted themselves to caring for her. When she died, the whole vecindad accompanied the hearse that carried Doña Petra to the cemetery.
We think that Doña Petra was from the Central Valley. She joked with my father, saying that they were relatives, since his biological father was from the Valley as well. She always called my father “patrón” or “patroncito,” and although my father told her not to call him that because he was not, she never left off doing so.
When Petrita came to my grandmother's house, she walked slowly but with a firm step. She was thin and slightly stooped; we don't know if she was tall, but to us as children, she seemed to be, because we had to raise our eyes to look at her
Perhaps in the decade of the 50's—which may be when she met my grandmother—Petrita was 60 years old. We remember her as a lady who dressed almost the same every day: in a short, thin black sweater and a plaid dress that reached to the ankle, with a color between black and gray.
Her face and nose were elongated. She wore her long gray hair in two braids, which she adorned with black ribbons, tied at the end to make a knot, letting the rest of the ribbon hang to her waist. When Doña Petrita died, she was 80 or 85 years old.
When you stay at Las Golondrinas, you become part of this fascinating history and you can say that you have been in a place that indeed has a history. Today, few vecindades remain, and the majority are in old houses.
There is no room for doubt that the hotel is lovely and different from other hotels. No two rooms are alike or even similar to each other. The three courtyards are preserved, although in the first there is now a fountain of green stone from which springs, in the afternoon, a stream of water that cools the air. Plants and pots look splendid in the corners where they've been placed.
We await you. Your stay with us will not lack warmth, originality or color. We want to get to know you; you already know a little about us.