Oaxaca will sweep you off your feet and take you on a dazzling journey of discovery through its diverse cultures, breath-taking landscapes, lovingly restored colonial architecture, mouth-watering cuisine, ancient archaeological ruins, cheerful music, exquisite craft and atmospheric festivals. As an introduction to the vast and beautiful country of Mexico there is no better place to start!
This city is home to one of the largest populations of indigenous people in Mexico and this astonishingly rich cultural heritage is a source of pride amongst Oaxaqueños. The majority of the ethnic groups are Zapotecos and Mixtecos as well as Amuzgos, Chatinos, Chinantecos, Cuicatecos, Huaves, Mazatecos, Tacuates, Mixes, Triquis, Zapotecos Istmeno and Afro-Mexicano. Their diversity is reflected in language, dialect, custom, music, craft, costume and cuisine making a vibrant melting-pot of cultures.
Its extraordinary biodiversity makes Oaxaca a nature-lover’s paradise with towering pine forests in the Sierra Madre del Sur, rugged planes populated with cacti in the Valles Centrales, miles of pristine beaches and turtle nesting grounds on the Pacific coastline, sweltering tropical jungles and swamps in the Isthmus de Tehuentepec and the atmospheric cloud forests of the Sierra de Juarez where jaguars and pumas slink between bromeliads, ferns and orchids. This abundance of natural beauty and its significance to local communities is explored in the outstanding Jardin Étnobotánico de Oaxaca.
Oaxaca is a craft-lover’s El Dorado and you may find yourself re-organising your luggage to squeeze in your treasured purchases. Throughout the state the artisans of the indigenous communities continue the traditions of their ancestors to create magnificent works of art; intricately carved black pottery, sacred hearts and dancing skeletons in embossed tin, sumptuous satchels and huaraches in leather, cheerful piñatas and fantastical alebrijes in papier-mâché, exquisite woven and embroidered textiles. These can be purchased at the Benito Juarez market or better yet in one of the co-operatives that supports the craftspeople such as La Casa de Artesanías de Oaxaca or the Oaxacan Institute of Craftspeople (ARIPO).
Extract from the Cotton issue. Words by Rebecca Devaney.