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Visiting Oaxaca and Area, Culture & Crafts of Southwest Mexico

Visiting Oaxaca and Area, Culture & Crafts of Southwest Mexico

Old May 27, 19, 10:10 pm
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Visiting Oaxaca and Area, Culture & Crafts of Southwest Mexico

Oaxaca is both the name of the state of Oaxaca (wah-HOCK-ah), and the name of its capital city Oaxaca de Juárez. This rich cultural area of Mexico was inhabited by the Mixtec and Zapotec people for millennia and is a popular area to visit for Mexicans and foreign visitors. It has been my privilege to spend time here over the decades, and I’d recommend it it in a heartbeat.

Oaxaca is extremely diverse and rich. Because of its mountain ranges, the state has a number of climates and cultures, which contributes to making the culture, customs and cuisine the most varied in Mexico. The state has coastal, mountainous and nearly everything in between terrain and climate. Oaxaca has seventeen recognized indigenous groups and seven language groups, all who contribute their own traditions and may also show syncretic influences from the Spanish conquerors. The cooking of each region in the state is characterized by local ingredients and to some extent cooking methods. One example is that of the Triques, who are known for their pit barbecuing. (Modified from Wikipedia)

Climate: Weather is moderate and dry November - May, mostly afternoon and night rains at other times. It tends to be cooler at night due to the elevation of 5,102 ft (1,555 metres). See climate chart below.

Getting there: Though one can drive in under six hours using the toll road through Puebla and Tehuacán, it’s also easy to get there by air (about an hour from MEX / Mexico City international airport. One can also get there by very reliable and comfortable bus.

Safety: There are occasional demonstrations in the center of town occasionally, but they’re not interested in targeting tourists and locals will tell you when these might be and where to avoid. Mainstream Oaxaca is pretty safe, but as anywhere tourism is very popular be aware of opportunistic petty thievery, pickpocketing and purse snatching in crowded market and tourist areas. The violence a few years ago between government (police, military) and the teachers’ confederation have pretty much gone away with the new national government, but if locals warn you about demonstrations or actions, heed their advice; they lived through seven months of prolonged troubles in 2006.

LOCAL SIGHTS

Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo) is a large plaza that is the heart of Oaxaca, surrounded by portals with shops, restaurants, a museum, a central kiosk that hosts band concerts such as the Musical Band of the State of Oaxaca, Marimba and other groups. Nearby are the Cathedral, la Catedral de Nuestra Señora de al Asunción, and the lush Alameda de León garden area. Nearby is the pedestrian only Andador Turístico Macedonio Alcalá with notable buildings and shopping.

Rufino Tamayo Museum

Museum of Contemporary Art

Museum of Oaxacan Cultures

Textile Arts Museum


UNDER CONSTRUCTION


Links

Link to Lonely Planet list of attractions in Oaxaca

Link to Oaxaca Events of all kinds, including classes. Highly recommended!
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Last edited by JDiver; May 30, 19 at 11:15 am
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Old May 27, 19, 10:15 pm
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Day trip: Southeast Archaeology, Market, Mezcal and Wool Weaving loop

DAY TOUR SIGHTS: Southeast Highway 190 Mitla corridor

Starting from farthest point, Mitla, 27 miles / 44 km on a two lane paved highway that is part of the Pan American Highway. Because Mitla is lower and hotter than Oaxaca, I recommend driving out there and seeing Mitla before it gets hit. There’s little shade.

Mitla, splendid Zapotec archaeological site is unique for its “elaborate and intricate mosaic fretwork and geometric designs that cover tombs, panels, friezes and even entire walls. These mosaics are made with small, finely cut and polished stone pieces which have been fitted together without the use of mortar. No other site in Mexico has this.”

The town has weaving and other shops, but I recommend you wait to buy until you visit Teotitlán del Valle.

Yagul archaeological center and prehistoric caves, 22 mi / 36 km from Oaxaca dates back to nearby cliff paintings from 3,000 BC. ”Yagul was first occupied around 500-100 BC. Around 500-700 AD, residential, civic and ceremonial structures were built at the site. However, most of the visible remains date to 1250-1521 AD, when the site functioned as the capital of a Postclassic city-state.“

Dainzú is a small but interesting archaeological site 20 mi / 32 km from Oaxaca. Link

Tlacolula, known for its amazing and sprawling market - particularly on Sundays. 18 mi / 30 km from Oaxaca. The market is one of the oldest of Mesoamerican markets. Lots of produce and even services. I’ve seen a dentist with a foot pedal,operated drill, a massage healer (who traded services with a chiropractor friend visiting from Australia), traditional herbalists, etc.

Nearby Mezcal tasting. (Tequila is distilled from the Blue Agave, Agave tequilana Webber, in Jalisco. Mezcal is distilled from other species of Agave century plants, and can be very fine to rough, and can be flavored to make tasty liquors. You’ll see the signs, and it’s worth a stop. Santiago Matatlán, halfway between Tlacolula and the Teotilán junction, produces over 95% of mezcal consumed in Mexico. El Rey de Matatlán mezcal distillery and tasting at the road junction into Teotitlán.


Teotitlán del Valle, reached by a short paved spur east of the highway, is a Zapotec town that specializes in weaving wool by traditional methods, as well as dyeing and weaving wall hangings, rugs, clothing items, etc. Uf you’re a weaver, come spend the day. Go to one of the traditional weaving Gutierrez, Mendoza families or the Vida Nueva Women’s Weaving Cooperative, where you might see dyeing with natural substances including walnut, bugambilia, añil (indigo), cochineal (the scarlet dye used by the British redcoats), Purpura patula (related to the Mediterranean royal purple), etc. See photo of Porfirio Santiago below. Link.

For lunch try “Restaurant Tlamanalli, Av. Juárez 39 (tel. 951/524-4006), run by three Zapotec sisters who serve Oaxacan cuisine. Its reputation attracts lots of foreigners. It's on the right on the main street as you approach the main part of town, in a red brick building with black wrought-iron window covers. It's open Monday through Friday from 1 to 4pm. A bit farther on, there's another nice restaurant on the left where the main street intersects with the town center.” - Frommer

El Tule, close to (9 km / 6 mi) Oaxaca, is unmissable in the church grounds in the town center of Santa María del Tule, a colossal 2409-1600 year old ahuehuete (Montezuma cypress, ) tree, the tree with the greatest girth in all the world.

You’re back in Oaxaca, having made a memorable one day tour.

Other possibilities you can add to this trip:

Hierve el Agua “mineral waterfalls” past Mitla on the unpaved road to San Lorenzo Albarradas. Probably best to ignore this site in rainy season.
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Last edited by JDiver; May 28, 19 at 2:01 pm
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Old May 27, 19, 10:15 pm
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Day Trip: Monte Albán and Crafts Villages, Zaachilá, Ocotlán route

Monte Albán and Crafts Villages loop west and southwest

Monte Albán is 5 mi / 9 km west of Oaxaca on a mountain offering great views of Oaxaca and the valley. There’s a fair amount of walking, but it’s mostly on flat land and this is a “can’t miss” site. An early Mesoamerican city, Monte Albán was the “pre-eminent Zapotec socio-political and economic center for close to a thousand years”. Link.

Monte Albán can be done as a half day tour, possibly best starting in the morning. There’s little shade, it can get warm in the dry season of rainy in the afternoon in the wet season.


Arrazola (San Antonio Arrazola), village of alebrijes (oll-eh-BREE-Hays), mythical colorful creatures of copal wood. See more in the video and in the description of San Martín Tilcajete, below.

Zaachilá 4 mi / 6 km from Oaxaca, has a noted archaeological site, the last preColombian Zapotec city. Some crafts, mostky clothing are sold here as well. “The last Monday of July, the Zaachila community meets in the archaeological site, better known as "el cerrito," to honor the Corn Goddess (Pitao Ko Shuub), in traditional Laanii Roo Xten Daan Zaadxil.” Colorful dances make this a joyous and colorful tradition to attend. Link Like many celebrations, late afternoons can get crowded and some who get intoxicated can be obnoxious.

San Bartolo Coyotepec, village of black pottery and hime / factory of famed potter and artisan Doña Rosa Real Mateo de Nieto‘s family. The family’s black pottery (don’t be fooled by pottery blackened with shoe polish in some shops!) is renowned and inexpensive compared to other places you might find it. (I had the honor and pleasure of knowing Doña Rosa Real Mateo de Nieto and her son Don Valente Nieto when they lived, and it gratifies me the family tradition continues with her grandchildren and even the following generation.) see them here:


A worthwhile stop is the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular de Oaxaca / Oaxaca State Museum of Popular Arts, which displays pottery art dating to preColombian Times, owned by renowned Potter Carlomagno Pedro Martínez makes black pottery creatures and figurines, also quite collectible.

San Martín Tilcajete, village of mythical alebrije creatures carved of wood. “The three towns most closely associated with alebrije production in Oaxaca - Arrazola and San Martín are covered on this day trip - have produced a number of notable artisans such as Manuel Jiménez, Jacobo Angeles, Martin Sandiego, Julia Fuentes and Miguel Santiago.” These artists’ alebrijes can be found in art museums and collections worldwide.


Ocotlán de Morelos is at the southern end of this route. Ocotlán is known for its famous potter Aguilar family, who make realistic clay impressions of people etc. Angel Aguilar also has a workshop; he is renowned for making knives, swords, machetes etc. with 16th century techniques. The tranquil Temple and Ex-convent of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, now a museum that includes work by local renowned late painter Rodolfo Morales.

From here it’s just under 25 mi / 40 km back to Oaxaca on Highway 175. If you’re interested in crafts and traditional arts you’ll easily take the day to do this trip.
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Last edited by JDiver; Jul 31, 19 at 11:20 am
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Old May 27, 19, 10:15 pm
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Day trip: Northeast Sierra Juarez “Magical Village” tour

DAY TOUR SIGHTS: Northeast Highway 175, the Calpulálpam Pueblo Mágico corridor

This is more of a scenic day trip visiting small villages, seeing spectacular views as you clim into the verdant mountain range of the Sierra de Juárez. You’ll find quaint shops and some crafts, but this is a less intense day to relax and see a more rural and forested zone. Alternatively, one can hunker down and stay a while to backpack, hike, bird, study traditional medicine, participate in ecotourism. (During the rainy season, June-October, this area is quite rainy, and as the upper portion is in cloud forest one can encounter mist and rain.)

San Andres Huayapam is the first village you come to on this route, and it’s worth noting the change of pace from the relatively frenetic city. There is a riverside well credited with an apparition of Jesus Christ, the “student dam” restaurants so popular on weekends. Some like to stay here in Linda Hanna’s tranquil refuge Casa Linda is “a veritable folk art museum set in the middle of gorgeous gardens”. Linda knows art and organizes tours. Huayapam is 15 minutes and a world away from Oaxaca city.

San Pablo Guelatao is at the foot of the Sierra, and is the birthplace of Benito Juárez, the first indigenous president of Mexico. Two hours from Oaxaca, very scenic with a lovely lagoon and with a trout hatchery and farm. At least two restaurants where you can order very fresh “trucha” (TROO-chah), trout.

Ixtlán de Juárez, which has existed long before the Europeans came, is about 1:30 and 40 mi / 65 km from Oaxaca city. This is one of México’s indigenous strongholds and centers of eco-tourism. There is only communal property, private ownership of property is prohibited. The surrounding cloud forest, pine and oak woodlands are managed sustainably. You can visit the Museo de la Biodiversidad (Biodiversity Museum) here; there is a university, the Universidad de la Sierra Juárez, which offers degrees in the fields of natural sciences, sociology and humanities.

Calpulálpam de Mendez is in the Sierra at an altitude of 6,690 ft (2,040 m), a designated “Pueblo Mágico” for its beauty. Here is the Traditional Medicine Center for learning and experiencing traditional healing, herbalism, traditional “sobadas” massage, the “temazcal” steam bath used for centuries by native people to cleanse and heal body and soul. There is a herbal pharmacy which even offers basic coursework. The church is worth a visit. Horse back riding, hiking, mountain biking, a forest zipline are here too. Nature lovers will find this area has more than 400 species of birds, 350 and more than 6,000 plant species. Crafts include embroidered dresses, blouses, napkin and blankets, and there’s an Art and Toys Gallery.

11 to 22 September fair of St. Matthew the Apostle includes parades, dances, bands, fireworks and more.
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Old May 27, 19, 10:17 pm
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Markets

MARKETS IN OAXACA CITY of interest (from oaxacaevents.com)

A prefatory word about market grunting and comedores. Most comedores run day to day and are popular with locals, so sanitation, food safety and quality are important to the operators. If too many got ill, the word would get around and they’d be out of business. If it’s freshly made and hot, it’s likely safe. But look it over first: are all utensils and plates dipped into the same wash water? Are foodstuffs covered or exposed to flies? Are they freshly prepared, or are they sitting in containers for hours? Use common sense, avoid tap water and green salads. I’ve never gotten ill eating in comedores in the decades I’ve dine it, but I do look them over first.

NOTE: Markets are targeted at local people, hardy rural folk who get up early. You should too if you want to get the most out of a market visit, and you benefit by being there at a cooler part of the day. By 10:00 AM the markets are certainly still going full tilt but they’re filling with tourists and the best of the best produce has gone to the early “marchantes” regular customers with the established relationships with vendors.

The information here is mostly from the excellent website oaxacaevents.com

Merced Market - the corner of Ave Murgia and Calzado de Repulbica, about 8 blocks east of the Zócalo main square. Also known as Mercado Democracia. Open every day, but Sunday is the main day. Excellent comedores, market restaurants.

Mercado Sánchez Pascuas – Just north of Calle de Quetzalcoatl on Calle Porfirio Díaz. Another excellent local market with great comedores, flowers, meats and vegetables.

Mercado 20 de Noviembre - 2.5 blocks south of the west side of the Zócalo on Avenida Flores Magón. Mainly a market to go to eat. Great comedores, chocolate and mole sold at the south side. The Pasillo De Carnes Asadas is an área on the east side of market where one can choose meat and have it grilled for you. Then buy salsa, onions and more.

Mercado Benito Juárez - 1 block south of the west side of the zocalo, on Ave Flores Magon. This is the most touristy of all the markets and seems to have everything. Clothes, cheese, flowers, baskets, coffee, meat, nuts, vegetables, toys, fish, candy and much more. Open every day.

Mercado de Abastos – Often just called “Central”. Go east on Las Casas (Ave. Colon) about 8 blocks from the Zócalo. It is GIANT. The busy day is Saturday, with Tuesday also being busy. Product comes to it from all over Mexico and beyond. Many buses go there. Centro is the Zócalo, Central is this market. Every product seems to have an area, the pumpkins are not with the vegetables, the fish is all together, the dishes and pottery are separate, the animal supplies are at the other side and further back is wood and furniture. Please exercise caution when going. No gold jewelry, no wallets or purses. Take only what you need safely tucked away. Prepare to be overwhelmed.

Mercado Hidalgo - In Colonia Reforma, north of the centro. At the corner of Calle Palmeras and E. Carranza. A neighborhood market with an upscale twist. Always the best produce. They carry fresh cranberries for the season! Beautiful flowers, good meats.

Mercado de Artesanías, the crafts market – 4 blocks south of the Zocolo on JP Garcia. Perfect place to find a treasure. Individual stalls with all the products of Oaxaca – rugs, weaving, clothing, carvings, tin. Reasonable prices. If you’re short on time and can’t dedicate the time to take the crafts routes described above and both meet the craftspeople and observe the crafts being made, you’re liable to find good crafts items to buy here.

Tianguis (tee-AHN-geese) de Llano – This market is no longer at Llano Park. It has been moved along the street of Curtidurías, just east of Ave. Vasconcelos. (Go one block south of Llano, go east on Cosejoeza - continue about 5 blocks to Ave. Vasconcelos, the name of the street will change) The biggest Tianguis (weekly market) in Oaxaca Great eating, shopping and people watching. Many of the same vendors are at other locations on different days. The word tianguis comes from the Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) "tianquiztli" which means marketplace.

WEEKLY VILLAGE MARKETS (Tianguis)

The markets listed are permanent markets and open every day. Yet each market has a special day when it three times the size being surrounded by a tiangus. Be on the lookout for pickpockets and purse slashing. Best to take only what you will need and leave the credit cards in the city; they won’t be of much use.

Wednesday: Villa de Etla, by bus or collectivo from Abastos. Due to better water supply in this end of the valley, the Etla valley is the home of great Oaxacan cheeses. Also incredible tamales and barbacoa.

Thursday: Villa de Zaachilá, by bus or collectivo from Abastos. A large draw is the separate animal market nearby. And as usual, great food.

Friday: Ocotlán de Morelos, by van or collective. About 20 miles south of Oaxaca, a large Zapotec market. Famous for foods, leather, mescal, ox yokes, and a visit to the restored church.

Sunday: Tlacolula de Matamoros – by bus or colectivo south of Oaxaca on the way to Mitla. This is the largest of the weekly markets (and the one most often visited by tourists). It is amazing and again a wonderful church to visit.
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Old May 27, 19, 10:18 pm
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Cuisine (under construction)

CUISINE

The cuisine of Oaxaca shares its origins with central and southern Mexico cuisine, but has some distinctions. Oaxaca is replete with restaurants and offers good eating in the markets (see market post).

Link to illustrated article on Oaxaca food on Uncornered Market

Link to decent Wikipedia article about Oaxaca cuisine

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Chocolate: Xocólatl, as it is called in Nahuatl, or chocolate (choke-oh-LAH-teh in Spanish) is a Mesoamerican foodstuff, beverage and spice. “Oaxaca is famous for its chocolate, traditionally hand ground and combined with almonds, cinnamon and other ingredients, usually drunk as a hot beverage.” Cacao is grown in Oaxaca, and if you visit the El Mayordomo shop you can see it being roasted, mixed with sugar and cinnamon - and buy some.

Coffee: Delicious coffees are grown in the mountainous areas of Oaxaca.

Insects: Many native cuisines use insects, and in Oaxaca chapulines (grasshoppers) are found roasted, fried and even in chocolate. Some sauces use jumiles, true bug relatives. Gusano de maguey (larvae of the century plant moth) are tasty when fried. Escamoles are tasty and larvae that taste like extra rich pine nuts. (Yes, I’ve eaten them all. Other than tacos filled with live jumiles, I quite like them.)

Mezcal: (Nope, nothing to do with mescaline, mescal buttons or psychedelics.) Tequila is an alcoholic beverage distilled from the fermented juice of the roasted hearts if the Blue Agave century plant (Agave tequilana Weber) in Jalisco state. Mezcal is its analog made from century plants other than the Blue Agave, and Oaxaca is the main producer. There are plain versions as well as aged, and some flavored with orange, etc. Some mezcal is worthy of tasting and sipping.

Mole: There are seven more famous kinds of mole (MO-leh) in Oaxaca, the most known earthy, chocolatey, nutty, spicy and rich. Mole is actually more diverse because every family has its own recipes, handed down through generations, so there are at least hundreds of moles.

Squash flower: Flór de calabaza is served in soups, quesadillas, empanadas etc.

Tamales: Tamales are usually larger, often made with mole and wrapped in banana leaves in Oaxaca, rather than wrapped in corn husk. There are several varieties of tamal you won’t see elsewhere.

Tlayudas: Large chewy crispy tortillas with black bean paste, Oaxaca cheese and toppings like cecina (like South African biltong), carne asada, etc.

Some excellent Oaxaca influenced cuisine can be enjoyed at restaurants like La Biznaga (García Vigil No. 512) and Los Danzantes. Traditional Oaxaca food is good and plentiful at the 20 de Noviembre market.

Chocolate being ground, roasted and blended
Mezcal tasting with Luís Ramirez tours
Tamales
Tlayuda
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Festivals and Events

FESTIVALS

Every town has its unique celebrations on its Saint’s Day. Though many towns carry original Zapotec, Mixe, Mazatec, Nahuatl, etc. the Spanish conquerors generally imposed a Saint on each town. Ergo, Cuilapam was dedicated to Santiago Apóstol (St. John the Apostle), whose day is January 25 - with a grand fair, dancing, rodeo, etc. It would be exhaustive to list them all, but check the pages of http://www.oaxacaevents.com

Link to listings of festivals around Oaxaca.

Día de Los Reyes (Epiphany, day of the three kings) January 6 - is the traditional day children received Christmas gifts and is the end of the Christmas season. Family and friends share a “rosca” circular cake in which plastic figurine of the baby Jesus has been hidden. S/he who find a "muñeco" in their piece of rosca must host the ensuing party on February 2. This is more of a family tradition, but you’ll see roscas in the bakeries.

February 2 - Santa María del Tule, home of the Tule tree. La Candelaria or Purification of the Virgin and the Blessing of the Infant Jesus this feast is celebrated with a calenda parade, mayordomía and guelaguetza thanksgiving dance celebration.

February 5 - Día de la Constitución / Constitution day, national holiday, special patriotic observances.

February 24 - Día de la Bándera / Flag Day, many offices closed, special patriotic observances concerning the national banner.

Lenten celebrations and observances vary from town to town.

March 21 - Anniversary of the birth of President Benito Juárez, national holiday with many official and other patriotic observances honoring the Benemérito of the Americas, and a huge deal in his natal state of Oaxaca.

Easter Sunday follows Semana Santa / Holy Week, which is for all practical purposes a holiday week everyone takes off work. Most businesses are closed, those remaining open are skeletonized and basically nonfunctional. Tourist venues are horribly crowded, lodging scarce, prices sky high, transportation jam packed.

April 25 - Anniversary of the decree by Carlos V in 1532 raising the Villa de Antequera to the category of royal city with the name of Antequera de Oaxaca . Thare many public festivities and musical programs presented by Philharmonic Orchestras to celebrate this event.

May 1 - Día del Trabajo / Labor Day. Expect businesses and government functions to be closed and worker oriented parades. Lots of parades.

May 3 - Feast of the Santa Cruz and Día del Albañil (Construction Worker), and of the architect and Engineer. Celebrated in any village or colonia named Santa Cruz in various manners, and on all construction sites, as well as with parades music and cultural activities by the students in architecture and engineering. You’ll see floral crosses on construction sites.

May 5 - Cinco de Mayo isn’t much celebrated in Mexico; its more of a Mexican expat celebration of the defeat of Napoleon,s troops in the Battle of Puebla.

May 10 - Día de la Madre / Mother's Day celebrated nationally with commercial promotions and special attentions to all mothers.

Guelaguetza in July sees native and traditional people from throughout the state come together for a week of joyous cultural celebration highlighted by dancers in traditional dress performing their traditional dances and ceremonies. This is the equivalent of any Pushkar camel fair or Holi or powwow, with people representing different ethnic groups and villages throughout the state come and present local autochthonous dances.

The Guelaguetza is the "modernized" version of the prehispanic custom of making an offering (guelaguetza in Zapotec) to the gods and especially to the goddess of corn to ensure sufficient rainfall and a good harvest. July 16 in the present calendar is equivalent to the ancient calendar date of the feast of the goddess of tender corn (Centeotl). As the Spanish priests were not able to abolish this deeply rooted custom, they "catholicized" it by tying it to the feast of the Virgin of Carmen. On this date there are parades with the regional delegations to the Guelaguetza, the "giants" , musicians, etc. and the official Guelaguetza takes place on the two following Mondays. On the Sunday preceding the first Monday there is a contest to choose from the candidates of each delegation the "Goddess Centeotl" who will preside at all the festivities. She is chosen, not for her beauty although she may be very lovely, but for her knowledge of the customs and traditions of her village and region. That same evening in the Plaza de la Danza is the Bani Stui Gulal, a representation of dances from several periods in the history of the Guelaguetza.

On the two Mondays (in 1999 July 19 and July 26) festivities begin with mañanitas at 5:00 AM followed by local bands until the Guelaguetza proper begins at 10:00 with the presentation of the Diosa (goddess) Centeotl and all the delegations, followed by the dances, music, tradition and the gift of regional products to the audience. All the seven regions of the state are represented with their traditional dress and customs in the open air amphitheater on the Cerro del Fortín overlooking the beautiful colonial city below. It is a magnificent spectacle on a perfect day (it is forbidden to rain that morning) and should not be missed. It finishes around 1:00 PM and everyone goes to the zocalo to watch the many presentations of one or another delegation around town.

On the two Monday nights, in the same Guelaguetza Auditorium, entrance is free to the presentation of the Legend of Donaji. Daughter of Cosijoeza, last ruler of the Zapotecs in the Valley, Donaji's life and tragic death are dramatically presented with fireworks and spectacular effects.

The guelaguetza period ends the last three days of July with mañanitas, calendas, religious activities, music and fireworks at the church of Carmen Bajo. http://www.oaxacalive.com/calendar.htm
September 15 - Grito de Independencia / Shout of Independence of México - La Noche Mexicana is celebrated nationwide with parties, dancing, fireworks. At 11:00 PM the ceremony of the Grito commemorates the call for independence from Spain given on September 15, 1810 by Miguel Hidalgo. In Oaxaca and in every city and village the zocalo or main square is filled with people who will shout the ¡Viva Mexico! and enjoy the fireworks, dances and other festivities.

September 16 - Día de Independencia - Mexican Independence Day - National holiday celebrating Mexico's Independence from Spain. Parades and cultural, political activities. Everything governmental is closed.

31 Oct - 2 November Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated over a three day period October 31, November 1, and November 2. THIS IS NOT HALLOWEEN. The dead ancestors and family are believed to return in spirit during these days to visit their live family members. Día de los Muertos is celebrated with some differences, throughout the region. The rituals are colorful and interesting. However, a sincere caveat. These are celebrations and times of spiritual communing with one’s ancestors, and obstreperous visitors sticking cameras into people’s faces and business without invitation isn’t any more welcome than if someone stalked you during your moments of privacy. Be discrete, be quiet, be respectful.

December 12 - Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of all Mexico, is celebrated nationally. Here on the day before the small children are dressed to represent Juan Diego to whom the Virgin miraculously appeared in the 16th century and a simple "indian" woman of the time, and taken to the Guadalupe church to be blessed. All of the area around the Llano Park in front of the church is filled with carnival rides and special attractions for the children.

There are many other activities, including mañanitas, rosary at dawn, convite, religious activities, calenda, carnival, food, music and fireworks. Many of the unions of bus and taxi drivers participate in the special religious activities.

December 16 - 24 - The traditional Posadas commemorate the search by Mary and Joseph for shelter in Bethlehem. On each of the nine nights preceding Christmas the holy couple and other “pilgrims” walk and sing requesting shelter and are refused at various houses before being admitted by the chosen host for that night. The request, refusal and admittance are all sung in verse and a great party is held at the chosen house with special foods, collations, fruit, candy, piñatas and music. There are public and private Possdas, and if you’re invited enjoy the pageantry and refreshments afterwards, like champurrado (a corn and chocolate drink) and other comfort foods. Children get to break a piñata on these evenings as well.

December 18 - La Virgen de la Soledad is the patron of Oaxaca and the entire city and state honor her on this day with mañanitas (a traditional song sung for people’s birthdays and certain celebrations), rosary at dawn, convite, calenda, religious activities, carnival, regional dances, food fair, street fair, music, fireworks. The day begins at 4:00 AM music and fireworks; at 6:00 AM is the Promenade to the markets 20 de Noviembre, Benito Juárez and IV Centenario and to the zócalo. Activities continue throughout the day, including visits to the padrino's house and a return to the church at 1:00 or 2:00 AM

December 23 - Noche de Rábanos (night of radishes), a uniquely Oaxacan celebration which has its roots in the special market held the day before Christmas Eve when growers began to exhibit radishes which had grown to enormous lengths and with fantastic shapes. In time, they started to carve and fashion more sophisticated figures and to make tableaus representative of the season, especially nacimientos or nativity scenes. Apparently 1897 was the first year that the Municipality of Oaxaca organized the event as a contest and offered a prize to the best nacimiento (nativity crèche) made of radishes. Over the years the event has grown and two additional categories are now included - totomoxtle (corn husks) and flor inmortal (everlasting flowers). Also, other types of scenes representative of Oaxaca are permitted in addition to nacimientos.

December 24 - La Noche Buena or Christmas Eve All the churches offer special calendas with floats, lights and music which pass through the city, the zócalo and back to the churches. The last of the Posadas is held and all the anticipation and celebration culminates in the Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass ) at midnight. From then on, most celebrations are family oriented and take place in the home.

December 25 is Navidád - Christmas and you’ll see decorations everywhere. But people will be behind doors with their families, shops etc. will be closed. This is a school holiday that ends in early January and many take time off through New Year’s. Prices for lodging are high due to the popularity of the season.

Links

Link to Oaxaca Events of all kinds, including classes. Highly recommended!

Link to Oaxaca Live! calendar, which supplied some of the information herein but includes localized events.

Illustrations

Guelaguetza at the Guelaguetza Plaza
Guelaguetza
Noche de Rábanos
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Last edited by JDiver; May 30, 19 at 11:08 am
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Old May 27, 19, 10:50 pm
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Amazing resource thread. You've caught my attention.
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Old Jun 2, 19, 4:57 am
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Wow this is great. I visited Oaxaca last November and enjoyed it very much. There is a stamp (philately) museum just east of the botanical garden which i recommend. I'm not into stamps but they are organized thematically and chronologically and so tell interesting stories. Also it is in a nice facility. The botanical garden tour was also worthwhile as the guide explained the background and history of various plants and trees and their locations in Mexico. I like to walk in neighborhoods and so went northwest well beyond the home of Benito Juarez and got what i wanted--to see more normal life. The airport is modern and an easy trip by taxi--nonstop flight from Houston.
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Old Jul 31, 19, 11:15 am
  #10  
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I found this photo of Doña Rosa Real Mateo de Nieto (1900-1980) and her son, Don Valente Pánfilo Nieto (1930-2010) in their pottery studio on Benito Juarez Street in San Bartolo Coyotepec, on a page dedicated to Don Valente (www.donvalente.com.mx), taken at about the time I visited with them in the early 1970s. She brought the concept of black pottery (barro negro) using the iron oxide occurring naturally in the local clay and adding a reduction period to the firing to San Bartolo Coyotepec in the 1950s, adding “bruñido” - burnishing the clay to a high polish using polished agate stones - to some pottery to give it a high luster gunmetal grey-black. All the pottery is shaped by hand using an improvised potter’s “wheel” made of an inverted saucer serving as a base for another saucer, the actual “wheel”, turned entirely manually.

That’s how they remain in my mind and in my heart.
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Old Aug 11, 19, 1:36 am
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One last thing: I had the good fortune to see/hear the Oaxaca Symphony Orchestra during my visit. They performed at a historic theater in the center of the city. So also got to see the inside of this theater. It was free!

I did go on a day trip to Monte Alban and some of the crafts towns. The nice thing is that we drove near the university and that's where you'll find the U.S. big box retailers. Nice not to see them in the city center. I remember Merida was like that too -- you go north from the city center and you find all of those stores a la WalMart, Best Buy, Burger King, etc.--not in the center where most visitors spend their time.
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Old Aug 17, 19, 6:57 pm
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Thanks so much for posting all of this information. Any advice for spending time in Oaxaca and then traveling to the coast for some beach time?
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Old Aug 17, 19, 10:55 pm
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Originally Posted by lamphs View Post
Thanks so much for posting all of this information. Any advice for spending time in Oaxaca and then traveling to the coast for some beach time?
There are possibilities of flying from OAX to Huatulco and Puerto Escondido, iirc.
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