By Eric Mindling
Oaxaca, Mexico is rightfully famous. The historic core of Spanish colonial Oaxaca city is a UNESCO world heritage site loved for its lively artistic and cultural life and superb regional cuisine. Just beyond the city crowning a mountain top are the ruined temples, palaces and ball court of the ancient Zapotec kingdom of Monte Alban. Nearby is the legendary Tule tree, largest trunk diameter on earth as well as fascinating weekly markets in the towns of Tlacolula, Ocotlan and Etla. There are villages of traditional crafts people; the tapestry weavers of Teotitlan, the potters of Coyotepec and Atzompa, the carvers of Arrazola and San Martin Tilcajete. The truth is, the state of Oaxaca goes on and on, and given that it’s not that far from the US, many people return year after year.
In my case I liked it so much I never left, and that was 25 years ago. For a person like me who is enthralled by tradition and culture, Oaxaca is limitless. Don’t stop exploring once you’ve visited the must-sees. Your trip has just begun! Keep going and you’ll soon find that you’ve left the other toursits behind, that you’ve found your way into a quiet shop, a small village, the home of a welcoming artisan…and you’ve begun to really meet the character and characters of this place.
With a little Spanish (there are even great phone apps) and a guide book (Moon guide and Lonely Planet do a great job) and the abundant public transportation you can head to the hills. Throughout Oaxaca communities have built cabins for eco-tourism, most larger villages and towns also have hotels and a municipal office focused on tourism and more than willing to lend a hand when visitors knock on the door. Oaxacans as a rule are hospitable and welcoming. Go exploring, it’s worth it! 16 indigenous languages are spoken throughout the state and the tortilla was invented here! pre-Hispanic cacao drinks made with flowers, tropical seeds, and of course cacao beans, are still part of daily life and rituals. And the natural world is delicious as well. From the mangrove lagoons and the beaches of the Pacific, to the lush coffee growing country around Pluma Hidalgo, to the spectacular cactus forests around Cuicatlan, to the cool mountain mists of the Benito Juarez area in the Sierra Madre, Oaxaca will delight.
If you are keen to see more but not quite sure how to go about it, consider a tour with us. For travelers with adventurous spirits, Oaxaca will reward you endlessly.
- Eric Mindling, born in the USA, has written two books about the culture and arts of Oaxaca, including the award-winning Oaxaca Stories in Cloth. He is also a photographer, public speaker and the founder of Traditions Mexico Cultural Tours. But his real profession is sitting on the back porch of village houses and chewing the fat.