A Visit to the San Pablo Ex-Convent

a restored altar
We usually have to cross an ocean to visit a building that dates back to 1529 but I can just walk down the street a few blocks to visit the restored ex-convent of San Pablo. After earthquakes, the nationalization of the Catholic Church in the 19th century and many years as a hotel, the property was restored and repurposed as a cultural centre, exhibition hall, children's library and workshop, research library and a restaurant. If you are interested in historical restoration, the following video is 
very interesting. It is in Spanish but the before and after pictures are astonishing.

The San Pablo Cultural Complex is completely free. The cost of restoration and maintenance is funded by the Alfred Harp Helú Foundation. Exhibitions change regularly but I was delighted to find the the current exhibition was called Universos Imaginarios (Imaginary Universes). Trust me to find an exhibition about children's libraries.

What a treat!

The Foundation sponsors 26 mobile libraries including a bebeteca (infant library). I found Spanish translations of many favourites as well as a number of books by Mexican authors.

so colourful!

My next stop in the Centre was a ceramics display entitled Manos que Ven (Hands that See).

I am able to read Spanish much better than I speak it (fortunately).

This display is the work of the Garcia Mendoza family from a pueblo about 35 kilometres away. The Centre highlights the work of indigenous artists.

local clay work

The restoration juxtaposes historical and contemporary elements.
an original foundation

a contemporary archival and research library

There was yet another featured exhibition of traditional masks from another nearby town.

The masks in this exhibit are worn by dancers in traditional festivals.

There is so much to see at San Pablo that I will surely return many times during my visit.  An added attraction is the restaurant where I had freshly squeezed juice, an omelette of spinach and mushrooms
and unlimited coffee for 6 dollars.

So much to see!

Today, it is 33 degrees centigrade so I am spending the afternoon reading, writing and practising a bit of Spanish. I can read at an Advanced level but my oral Spanish is very Intermediate. There is so much to learn and to do in Oaxaca! Did I mention that almost all cultural activities are free?


  1. You sound like you are enjoying exploring Oaxaca very much. The heat would force me indoors in the afternoons, too.

    1. It's hot and the sun is very bright. It's important to pace yourself. There is so much to see.


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