Oaxaca this way to southern Mexico!

     Oaxaca, which lies almost 500km southeast of Mexico City, is the capital of Oaxaca state. The part of central California I call home (for lack of a better place) has many Mixtecs, an ethnic group from the northwest part of Oaxaca state who speak neither Spanish nor English. The New York Times wrote a story about the Mixtecs and how they make do in Madera County. My favorite part of the article is where DVDs of dances back home are sold so they can see who is dancing with whom! I’ve already met a policeman here who worked in the fields in Madera. Imagine that transition.
     Day of the Dead, which peaks on November 2, is an especially big holiday in Oaxaca, but a full ten days before it felt like the party was already in full swing with fireworks all day and night. Who lights fireworks in the daytime? I asked one guy running streamers through a large spinning wheel in preparation for one night’s show what the event was, but it hardly seemed to matter; something’s going on every night. Not just musicians but complete bands can be heard all over town, and there are a ton of people roaming around selling necessities like fried grasshoppers and plastic spiders. Great atmosphere.

     Heavy fireworks off the church in the main square, the zocalo, in Oaxaca. The pigeons are so used to the nonstop barrage of fireworks and noise in Oaxaca that they hardly budged during this. I think I heard one pigeon say to another, ‘Meh.’

     A ‘semi-new’ typewriter for US$440? The Mayans are right: the world is ending.

     The thing to do in Oaxaca that few do is to visit the surrounding towns on their weekly market days. I loved it. I must have set a backpacker record by going to four: Etla, Zaachila, Ocotlan and Tlacolula. (Try saying “Tlacolula” and “Oaxaca” ten times fast.) It’s a shame I saw only a smattering of other travelers as this is why I am interested in Oaxaca to begin with: to see everyone come from their villages into town wearing their colorful clothes to trade, chat, and eat.
     It’s worth going just to feast. I gorged on tacos, taquitos and tlayudas (large, thin tortillas with a variety of fillings) plus whatever caught my eye: pumpkin seed and honey discs, puffed amaranth and white chocolate wafers, …….and other delectables I should really take a photo of before I consume them.
     In the Tlacolula market I bought some watermelon chunks and tried to pay the woman when I felt someone tugging on my pants. I looked down and saw it was the cashier, a serious girl of maybe seven years old, no taller than my waist. I was apprehensive about paying her, but the woman gestured for me to do so, and I noticed she was wearing a money pouch. The little girl was all business. She reproached me for my hesitation by giving me a stern look and making change quickly. Confused, I looked back at the watermelon woman who gave a proud smile.

     On the way to Tlacolula I saw big, bright signs for “drogadictos anonimos” and “alcoholicos anonimos”, and then, in an appropriately lonely place on the highway, “neuroticos anonimos”.

     Statue in Ocotlan. I don’t know what else to say about this.

     Grasshoppers! Protein! These are sold all over town. In fact, grasshoppers in Oaxaca and the surrounding towns are just as omnipresent as tacos, believe it or not. How does one go about raising and breeding grasshoppers?

     Four tacos al pastor (meat off a vertical spit), only 12 pesos (12.5 pesos = $1.) The light yellow chunks are pineapple, which is surprisingly quite common.

     Hamburguesas McMel. It would be cool if McDonalds’ cease-and-desist letter had mustard stains on it.

     A chocolate miller in Oaxaca. I was fascinated by this. Raw cacao beans are mixed with sugar, almonds and cinnamon that people take home to make chocolate water, chocolate milk or other sweets, while other combinations of cacao and chilis are ground to form a basis of making mole. I poked my head into many mills to chat with the guys and sample their mixtures.

     Dreaming in color at the Tlacolula market

     2 kilos of potatoes for 10 pesos? How barbaric!

     Naming your Hungarian dance company Miskolc is like naming your American dance company Peoria or naming your Australian dance company Ipswich or naming your German dance company Sprockhovel or naming your British dance company Luton or…

Practical information:
     I chickened out of hitchhiking from Puebla to Oaxaca. It would have been a pain to find a good place to stand, lots of people already were hanging out by the road, plus other weak excuses. (It was hot.)
     Rideshare exists in Mexico, even if it feels in its infancy. This is a ride from Mexico City to Oaxaca for only 150 pesos each way, less than half the cost of the bus. It is a website worth keeping your eye on.
     I stayed at Hostal Pochon 120 pesos for a dorm bed, perfectly fine but if it is full, the dearth of bathrooms is a problem. I also stayed at the perfectly fine Hotel Posada el Chapulin (Grasshopper Hotel!) closer to town for 250 pesos for two people with bathroom, TV, wifi, etc.
     My advice is to check the housing listings on Oaxaca Craigslist even if you are in town for a short time. I saw a few private apartments for the same price as a dorm bed in a hostel.
     Why don’t you stay with me? You can follow along with RSS or subscribe to an email feed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Oaxaca this way to southern Mexico! — 7 Comments

  1. I have been wanting to go to Oaxaca for so long now. After reading this, I definitely need to soon. Great pictures! I’d love to see more pictures of Day of the Dead. So how do grasshoppers taste?

  2. I am on the coast now. It is cheap to fly to Mex from California and then getting to Oaxaca is about another $30 by bus. You need to come soon if you want to see Day of the Dead here!
    The grasshoppers I tried were salty!

  3. You should’ve asked me where to stay in Oaxaca (or maybe you did and I didn’t respond :/) because the hostel I stay at there is one of the best anywhere – Casa Angel. I would say private apartments are good if you plan on staying for a month+ and speak Spanish or want to learn it. I think it would be difficult for a solo traveler who’s only in town for a limited time to do a private apt… Oaxaca is a friendly place but takes more time to really get inside the culture than it does in Mexico City. I really loved that Tlacolula was foreigner free. What we enjoyed most about that experience was just getting swept up in the culture without a bunch of gringos and their big old cameras 😛

  4. Hi there! I’ve been following your blog in the background for some time. You’ve done a lot of the footwork for me for my upcoming trip to Central America..so thanks! I’m also wanting to get to some of Oaxaca’s surrounding pueblos. You mentioned each town has a market day each week–do you remember which day is the market day for the towns you visited, or remember where you found this info out? (Look at me trying to get you to do MORE of my planning work!..) Thanks for the entertaining read every week-I look forward to your posts!

  5. I think I checked wikitravel.org/oaxaca and then I double-checked with people around town. Also, much of the tourist literature shows the days for each place, and there are tourist info kiosks in the main square in Oaxaca to help you more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *