Our most recent travels took us to the state of Oaxaca. Among its humble and then stately cityscape, Oaxaca has a cultural richness like no other. The generations of progress here, as in so many areas of the world, has not completely erased the traditional dress of the indigenous people. Culinary delights are rich in flavor, their healthy ingredients held in equivalence. The cultural roots of this area are strong and easily seen in the many crafts of the Oaxaca Mexican artisans offered in the open air markets, as well as in the bounty of galleries and museums. We dig in for a week of learning and are excited to bring as much stateside as we are able.
Our Previous Travels
The last time we visited Oaxaca was in 2002. Here we are 13 years later, and much is the same. The most notable observation on the culinary side is the abundant everyday enjoyment of the: Tlayuda, Molotes, Chapulines, Chilis, Flor de Calibaza, Oaxaca Cheese, and Chocolate! From the artisan side, this region is known for the Barro Negro Black Clay, Alebrijes Hand Painted Animal Figures, Hand Embroidered blouses and dresses, Wool Rugs made with natural dyes, and Barro Rojo Red Clay. Oh, one more thing I almost forgot…the Mezcal!
Day 1: Arrival Oaxaca, Oaxaca
We arrived from Merida via Mexico City. Our rental car was booked with Alamo at an amazingly great deal of $7.95/day. When we arrived at counter, the insurance options seemed to dowse our ambitions to rent a car/drive in Mexico. Even though we are permanent residents with car insurance, it doesn’t cover other vehicles we drive (as in the US). The options with insurance added $149LDW-$495 Full Coverage for the week. Tip: call your credit card company to see if they cover collision damage waiver of car rentals in foreign countries. Ours did so we saved but still opted for the LDW coverage.
Walked the zocalo square at the cathedral and down the main “andador”. Lots of street vendors and artisan booths at the zocalo offering food, artisan crafts and even t-shirts. Teachers’ protests were generally calm while we were there. Our last visit to Oaxaca was in 2002 and the teachers were protesting back then also. Along the way were many stands selling “Tlayudas”, which are a specialty of the region. The recipe consists of: huge handmade tortillas cooked on a comal (hot clay grill) with manteca (pig fat), filled with oaxacan cheese, avocado, chorizo, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce.
The Local Restaurants
Here are the Restaurants we visited:
Tip: book your restaurant reservations if you see something you like while walking.
*****Los Danzantes – Traditional Oaxacan Food. Amazing open outdoor space with high adobe brick walls stacked in a zig-zag pattern reminiscent of the Zapotec. The bar was made of recycled steel of who knows what – very creative bar design. In the same building is a shop with crafts from the region, notably huipiles; a Tapas & Pisto Bar; Mezcal Shop, and Oro de Monte Alban (Gold & Silver) Jewelry. Apparently all are from the same owner.
****Black Coffee – Great Coffee & Concept: They combined a coffee shop some people say is “like Starbucks” with art. Most of the art is that of Guadalajara based Yuri Zatarain and Ernesto Cruz. Yuri’s work has been very commercialized since we saw it many years ago at its start. The light fixtures are from Ernesto Cruz. Service here was slow (20 minutes for a latte after we ordered), but the coffee is good.
*****Mayordomo – Authentic Hot Chocolate made the traditional way. Hand wisked to perfection. This was our last treat nearly every night as we walked like kids back to the hotel with our hot chocolate.
****Zicanda – This restaurant was creative in its decoration as well as menu. We enjoyed.
We discovered some new Oaxaca Mexican artisans that made leather handbags, embroidered huipils, and black clay pottery. They offered to introduce us to their relatives in the surrounding villages. More to come on Day 2.