It really wasn’t very long ago that I had never heard of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Even once I had heard of it, it was still a little while before I knew how to pronounce it (it’s wa-ha-ka, by the way). Now it’s hard to believe that it’s been seven weeks since I first set foot on Oaxacan soil (and that I’ve been in Mexico almost three months now!). We left the coast a week ago and have since been ambling around the capitol of this amazing state, also called Oaxaca.
If during my time on the coast I ever felt unsure of my love for this region, I am quite certain now that I am truly, madly, deeply in love with Oaxaca.
To say that this city is incredible would be an understatement. While I found myself often picking sand out of my fingernails on the coast, now I’m constantly scooping out colorful moles and other remnants of our fabulous meals. The food here is quite a bit different than what you’ll find on the menus of Mexican joints in the states. Mole is king in these parts, and Austin and I have had a ball sampling all the different varieties – usually poured over a large plate of some juicy chicken breast or cut of beef. Much like San Cristobal de las Casas back in Chiapas, Oaxaca is a mountainous region which specializes in fresh coffee and chocolate. And of course, A and I have wasted no time in visiting the many tasting rooms here that will serve you several sorts of mezcal in one happy sitting.
And then there are the museums. Oh the museums! On our first day we visited the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures, which is housed in what used to be a monastery adjoining the incredible Templo de Santo Domingo. What we thought might be a few hour excursion quickly panned out into almost an entire day. And had we planned for it, we could have easily whiled away many more hours in that massive, incredible place.
The Museo Rufino Tamayo was also a highlight. This small museum houses an amazing collection of pre-Columbian artifacts from the region, all collected by famed Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo and donated to the state.
And the art… Whether you’re interested in contemporary art, photography, or indigenous artisan work, the city is dotted with museums, galleries, and co-ops dedicated to showing off the talents that have been inspired by this beautiful place. Most likely a direct result of the colorful art scene, it probably goes without saying that the shopping in this city is also – you guessed it – incredible. Austin and I spent an entire day searching the markets and shops for treasures to bring home (with quite a bit of success I might add!).
Even without all of those things, this city is beautiful. It’s immaculately kept, built in the same colonial style we found in Valladolid, Merida, and Campeche, but a little bit richer. Interestingly, Oaxaca is actually the poorest state in Mexico. But nowhere else on this trip have I felt safer. Every night Austin and I explore the streets, usually enjoying a stroll on a pedestrian-only thoroughfare before making our way to the beautiful and vibrant Zocalo, or main square. There is always something going on there. Austin and I have witnessed peaceful political protests, hilarious slap-stick clown shows, pop-up artisan markets, mariachi bands, and even a full orchestra. One particularly joyous night we bumped into this colorful group twice on our way to and from dinner:
And, much like the rest of Mexico, I am constantly caught off guard by the warmth and kindness of the Oaxacan people. From the second I stepped off the bus I have felt welcomed and at home amongst these cacti studded mountains and stone paved streets.
Yes, Oaxaca, I love you. Won’t you please let me stay?