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News from Oaxaca

Spring at Rancho Pitaya.

Dear friends, 

I think many of you are wondering how Oaxaca is doing.

Oaxacans are resilient, elastic and resourceful; they expect change and assume impermanence. The country of Mexico registered 1,890 confirmed cases yesterday, April 5th. According to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, there has been 79 deaths, that is running at about 4%. There have been 12 confirmed cases and one confirmed death in the state of Oaxaca. 


Just finished a 10 mile ride on Fernandez now twenty. We did it in 1.5 hours.

Everyone in my immediate world is practicing “safe distancing”, wearing face masks when out where they cannot control this, practicing a good degree of self-quarantine and of course washing hands. See my no-sew bandana special.

In the past week Oaxaca has amped up these safety practices exponentially.

Healthy indoor / outdoor living continues.

Small businesses have to stay open and the Abastos Market continues to supply food to the people. Essential services are still operating if in a limited way with limited hours. I zipped in to the Soriana grocery store on April 2 to buy yogurt, the shelves were well stocked, there were no lines at the checkout, the cashiers wore simple face masks and disposable gloves and a young boy bagged the groceries. Normally, seniors bag the groceries for tips; I’ve been told they were all sent home with “dispensa” ( supply of basic dry goods ).  

Here’s an example of how retail has implemented swift health practices.  El Tio feed store has about a dozen branches in the central valleys. They sell every kind of animal feed: horse, pig, cat, dog, chicken and bird.  As you can imagine, I am a good and regular customer. On April 2 I went to a branch midway between Casa Murguia and Rancho Pitaya. There was a sign outside asking customers to line up 1.5 meters apart and only enter the store one at a time. When I went in: all 4 employees had face masks on, a clear plastic divider ( bank teller style ) had been erected between the customer area and the service area behind it, there was a pump gel hand-sanitizer available to customers, and the cashier asked me if I wanted to insert into the charge terminal my credit card personally. None of these measures had been in place on my prior visit to the store on March 28th.

Take a look at the art from La Mano Magica.

On a personal level, Maria Antonia continues to come to an empty Casa Murguia three times a week; she works alone and is keeping it beautifully maintained. At Rancho Pitaya, Gregorio is busy as always with the horses and ranch maintenance, and Gina is working full time part-time doing spring cleaning and a little cooking. Gina is accustomed to working fewer hours after our busy fall & winter season. It just came a month earlier this year. 

Feels great to be working with all the horses.

My son, Gabriel, closed Galería La Mano Magica to the public on March 21st. He has a sign posted on the door to call or message for a private appointment, but there are no tourists walking the streets so no-one has called. He is promoting the art in the gallery over the internet and WhatsApp. Take a virtual tour and see the great and uplifting works he has for sale. He accepts Visa, Mastercard and PayPal; he ships internationally.

The streets of Oaxaca are largely deserted. The last time I had any guests at the ranch, rides or birding excursions  was on Thursday March 19th. The last guest vacated Casa Murguia on March 28th, deciding, reluctantly, it was time to return to Toronto.

Casa Murguia is waiting for guests to return.

All reservations in April and May were cancelled weeks ago although most travelers and return customers are opting to simply change their reservation to a future date. There have been already many cancellations at Casa Murguia for the summer.  I am asking everyone to rebook if they need to cancel and their existing deposit will be applied 100%. I have enough savings to keep paying my employees for six months if no refunds are issued. 

Gabriel also helps out at the ranch.


I have been largely living at the ranch since I returned from a delightful working trip to the Sierra Juarez on March 19th. I am busy with the horses, having decided that this is the perfect opportunity to spend quality time schooling, exercising and doing tune-up training. For the last two weeks, Monday through Saturday, by 7.45 a.m. I am down at the stables. We are practicing safe distancing and Gina goes about, daily, wiping down with disinfectant the surfaces commonly touched. Gregorio grooms the horses, then goes off to his various chores. We saddle our own horse, that “we” being myself, Tess Plein, and a couple of times a week my son Gabriel. Tess has been living at Rancho Pitaya since March 23rd. She arrived in Oaxaca city early March and self-quarantined before coming to the ranch. She decided not to return to her home in the Netherlands because of the virus. Tess receives room and board in exchange for her part-time work. She is a bright equestrian schooled in classical riding.

Grey-breasted Woodpeckers are year round residents of Rancho Pitaya

It feels truly satisfying to be riding and training all my horses. With little effort they become even more responsive, transitioning in and out of all gaits:  walk to trot to canter. Even the miniature horse Belvita is not without her classes. We are taking advantage of these times and teaching her to drive a little jog cart. Three cheers for “ I love my work”.

The horses will be in tiptop shape when our international clientele returns! Visit the updated 2020 and 2021 Ride Calendar at Horseback Mexico and note that there are no price increases for the coming year plus greater discounts for return riders.

I started yesterday, Sunday, my day “off”, with great Oaxaca coffee and binoculars on the porch of my casita – 22 species in 30 minutes. Then I set off on my bike, solo, to bird the farmlands and pond between Rojas de Cuauhtemoc and the little village to the north, Guendulain. Safe distancing was easy, I just waived to the farmers cutting alfalfa in their fields. Here’s a link to some of the birds I see.

There were light evening showers twice last week and the forecast says possibility of showers most days this week. We are ready for this premium liquid, not a drop since late October, but the cacti and plumeria are blooming, and the bougainvillea is never more flashy than when it’s 32º and hasn’t rained in five months.

Viva Mexico!

I send all of you my best wishes, good vibes and a sunny cyber hug from our beloved Oaxaca. I would love to hear what everyone is doing.


Mary Jane

Oaxaca: 5th Best City in the World in 2019, Travel and Leisure magazine

Mary Jane Gagnier

owner and manager

Guest Villa in Oaxaca’s Historic Center

Murguia 403,

Smiling Sasha along with Dola, Noche and Jet are anxious for guests to return.


Oaxaca, Oax. 

Mexico 68000

Mary Jane’s cel: 52-951-199-7026

Rancho Pitaya country guesthouse and birdwatching tours

Horseback Mexico

guided horseback riding