When we first pulled into the outlying parts of Oaxaca City, we thought, this is what we drove 6.5 hours to see? But as soon as we turned into the colonial downtown we knew right away we made the right decision.
We arrived late in the day, but after a spin around the Zócalo (the main square and center of town), a leisurely bite to eat and an evening of people watching, Oaxaca (wa-ha-ka) began to live up to its billing. Oaxaca evokes an old European city with a special Mexican touch. On this and most Sunday evenings the Zócalo is filled with live music, people dancing, families strolling and lovers embracing.
What we found so fascinating was that, even though this is an old city, full of churches, gorgeous old stone buildings, churches, cobble stoned streets, and did I mention churches, it not only preserves the historical but also celebrates the new.
The churches range from the highly baroque to the modestly simple and everything in between. Most of them are working churches and not museum pieces. But Santa Domingo’s former monastery now is home to the fascinating Museum of Oaxacan Cultures and Botanical Garden.
It was just enjoyable walking through the city taking in the bright colors and finding delightful courtyards behind wooden doors. Impressive stone homes from the 1600s still
stand and house both historical and contemporary museums, art galleries, libraries and host film festivals. Click here to check out the cool doors of Oaxaca.
What also is special about Oaxaca is the number of indigenous people who live here. We heard estimates that the many indigenous groups, the Zapotec and Mixtec people being the dominate ones, make up 1/3 of the population of Oaxaca, with many of them speaking their languages and not Spanish. The woman are tough cookies; strong and noble. One lady let me have it when I was taking a street shot outside the market place and she did not want to be a part of my tableau. You don’t have to speak Zapotecan to know she was pissed off. From then on, I asked for permission to take photos, even if it was of a piece of fruit. And they always said yes. Speaking of fruit, click here to read about the food.