***As I was putting the finishing touches on this post, the news broke that Mexico City and Puebla had been struck by a 7.1 mag. earthquake. Having just left Mexico City, and deciding that it was our favorite place in Mexico so far, we helplessly continue to watch the ongoing news of the devastation. Today, as I post, over 200 souls have lost their lives. My heart hurts, and Jeff and I send our heartfelt love and sorrow out to all those effected.
I really didn’t know much about Oaxaca before we traveled there. (We experienced our first earthquake during our visit. WOW!!) I knew it was known for all the handicrafts and artwork that I gravitate towards when we shop in Mexico. The folk art wood carvings are my absolute favorite, but because we live in a limited space, there is no room for the tons of items I wanted to purchase. (Ok, I did manage to buy one wood carving. It is hidden in our rental car. I figure if I present it to Jeff as a gift, he won’t begrudge me the joy of my score.)
We stayed just outside the centro, (you can see our fantastic digs here) and took several one-day excursions to nearby tourist sites while we were there. We preferred to drive as little as possible, since streets in Oaxaca are often closed or diverted due to the abundance strikes regularly staged there. Teachers strikes, garbage pick-up strikes, mudslides, road wash-outs and flooding…driving in Oaxaca can be tricky! (Let me note here that during our stay, the garbage haulers were on strike, and garbage was everywhere! As wonderful as the city and it’s surroundings are, it was an eyesore to see literally tons of trash strewn about.)
We took an excursion to Santa Maria del Tule to see the town’s claim to fame-a 2,000-year-old Montezuma cypress tree, known as the El Árbol del Tule. The tree is one of the oldest, largest and widest trees in the world.
We continued traveling south of the city, to the textile and rug-making village of Teotitlan del Valle. I was on the hunt for some rugs to put in El Gato, but, again, being such a tight space, had very specific size restrictions. Next time we will go with enough time to have some custom made. We met a very informative local guy that spoke English, and was happy to give us a tour and demonstration of how the rugs in his family’s shop are made.
An interesting bit of info. That deep red color is made from harvesting the cochineal bugs that feed on the nopal cactus leaves. The bugs look like little white bits of white mold, but when you smash them, they are bright red. Here is an explanation of the dying process, if you are interested.
Another day, we visited The ruins of Monte Alban, a pre-columbian archaeological site that was the capital of the Zapotec people from around 500 BC to 1500 AD. At one point, Monte Alban had a population of over 17,000. Hard for me to imagine, as my hometown had less than 3000 residents.
The shopping in Oaxaca is bar-none the best
we I have experienced in Mexico. Maybe anywhere (and I am a big fan of the markets around Asia.)
While I enjoy strolling the streets of Mexican Zocalos, perusing the crafts (and junk) of the street vendors, in Oaxaca, there are several very high-quality Artisan shops that sell directly from the artists themselves. La Casa de las Artesanias is one I especially enjoyed. It is a large store selling the work of 80 family workshops and craft organizations from around Oaxaca state. I also spent quite a bit of time in The Artisans Market and the Women’s Handicraft Coop.
While the shopping in Oxaca is fantastic, I would be remiss not to mention the food!! OMG, Oaxaca City is a foodie’s delight. We had a sampler of all seven types of Mole. I prefer the green.
Tlaudyas (a plate-sized tortilla smothered and covered in Mexican goodness…
And let’s not forget chapulines, little seasoned and roasted grasshoppers, which can be added to dishes or eaten alone as a snack. (I liked to squeeze a little lime on mine.)
Of course, Oaxaca is also famous (infamous?) for the Mezcal, a type of Tequila (not a big fan), and hot chocolate-some of the best in the world. (Huge fan!!)
During our 3-week stay, Jeff traveled back to Kentucky for a week to visit family, and I made a point of Urban Hiking, wandering the streets and getting hopelessly lost. Speaking of getting lost, did I tell you that on one of those excursions, I lost my credit card (not a big deal) AND my Mexican Residency Card (very big deal, indeed!!) SHIT! So the following day, I backtracked. Walk to bus stop, catch bus, wander the city and eat at not one, but TWO food stalls, shop, cab back home.
In my broken (yes, still broken, but better than before) Spanish, I asked everybody in Oaxaca if they had found my card. The manager of the Artisan Market, with it’s like, million stalls, even made an announcement over the speaker system. Yes, it was embarrassing to then walk through the stalls, admitting that I was, indeed, the “gringa” that lost her Mexican identity. To no avail. Nope and Nope. Double-shit! Down but not out, I resigned myself to the meters upon meters of red tape I would soon endure to replace my lost residence card.
2 days later, I get a call from the credit card people, someone reportedly found my card (I had already cancelled the credit card). Long story short, the ex-pat across the street from our casa said the water delivery man found it in the gutter. WITH MY RESIDENCY CARD!!!! Fell outta my purse when I got on the bus, I reckon. HUGE Sigh of Relief!
You bet your ass I was a happy girl that day!!
Come back soon to hear about our continuing travels through the highlands of beautiful Mexico! Hasta Luego!!