Oaxaca, Mexico was on our list of places to visit for one reason: food. Oaxaca, often called the culinary capital of Mexico, is known for its mole sauces, hot chocolate, chapulines, and mezcal. We sampled all of them… sometimes more than once. It’s been said that the path to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I’m not certain if this is always true, but Oaxaca was definitely successful in this regard
What is a chapuline? It’s a fried grasshopper with chili pepper, and they are everywhere in Oaxaca. People munch them as they wander about the city. Old ladies try to sell them to you in the parks, on street corners, and while you are eating in restaurants. In fact, they are impossible to get away from… and that includes the after taste, which is why when I publish a list of the 100 best things I’ve ever eaten, chapulines will not be on it
Mole Negro Oaxaqueño has serious contention for the top 10 though, with its delectable hint of chocolate and chilies
Besides the food, the city itself has a magical charm. Like many colonial era cities in Mexico, the heart of the city is the zocalo, or town square, and a major Catholic cathedral. Pedestrian only cobblestone streets lead out from the center, lined with restaurants, coffee shops, and small stores featuring the hand crafted pottery, clothing, and tapestries from neighboring villages.
There are museums and private art galleries throughout the city, featuring local artists both past and present. Many are free or open for donations. A special find was an old dilapidated building cum art garden, with edible plants as the special guests
We ventured out of the city center to explore a few of the historical and cultural highlights of the region. A large weekly market in nearby Tlacalula brings people together from all over the region to buy produce, hand crafted items, and live poultry.
The nearby town of Tule features the world’s largest tree. Over 1500 years old and 11 meters across, it is big. And that’s about all there is to say about that…
The architectural site of Monte Albán is a short ride outside town. Besides pyramids and architectural alignment to the cosmos, it also features hundreds of school age children that desperately want a photo with a Taiwanese woman.
The people of Oaxaca only add to the beauty of the city. Everybody we crossed paths with was warm and friendly. Rogelio at Amigos Del Sol Language School arranged for us to stay with a local family, and also to meet with a few English students so we could do a language exchange. We spent several afternoons sitting in a coffee shop conversing with Luis and Marlene in a mix of Spanish and English
We were warmly welcomed by Socorro and family into their home for 9 nights and served many wonderful home cooked meals. We were even invited out to a bar to watch the Mexico vs. Peru soccer match, where many beers were consumed. Socorro, Gerardo, and Lithuania also have a well rated cooking school out of their home
Wandering about the city we witnessed many wonderfully ordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people. Here are a few of my favorites
Good food and good people created some great memories for us in Oaxaca. Next stop, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico
– One night in a homestay for two, with breakfast: $38
– Entrance fee to Monte Alban: 56 pesos per person (~$4.75)
– Collective taxi to El Tule to see the big tree (~30 minutes): 10 pesos per person (~$0.85)
– A serving of Mole Negro with Chicken and Rice in the local market: 40 pesos (~$3.25)
– A serving of Horchata with Tuna (a cactus fruit): 13 pesos (~$1)
– Bus fare: 6 pesos (~$0.50)
– Iced coffee: 15 pesos (~$1.25)