Oaxaca, Mexico


I’ve been told that Oaxaca is where I will find the “real” Mexico, and after nearly 3 months in this beautiful country, and learning what I already thought was a lot, I’m still excited to see this beautiful city. We stay at the Overlander Oasis just east of the city in the small town of El Tule. We are able to catch up with a Swiss couple we met on the side of the road in Baja and meet some other overlanders as well. El Tule is home to the world’s largest tree (around it’s base) and I wander over for a look-see. I can see it from blocks and blocks away. The tree towers about the small town and the church next to it. It’s so big I really can’t get a good photo of it from anywhere in the town square. Too close and you can’t get an appreciation for the scale of it, and too far away and you miss the beautiful detail and character that it has acquired in 2000 years of life.
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The tree is awe-inspiring. Imagine how much it has witnessed in that time.
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El Tule has several small artisan shops and textiles are the medium of choice for most locals. There are rugs and woven linens, purses, bracelets and belts and so many things to see and buy. Every one seems to work hard here and find a way to turn their talents into a living. I admire that, but also recognize its how they survive. All over Mexico you see men and women selling things on the street every day to earn enough money to eat and provide for their families. In El Tule one evening I watch a small family, with their baby in tow, walking through the central plaza to find customers for their pottery.
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They don’t look like they have much, but they are doing alright. and most of all, they look happy. They smile and chat while walking and take the greatest of care with their baby. Family is valued, I think, above all else in Mexico. And it’s beautiful. I see fathers carrying babies and pushing strollers and smothering them with open affection and love. I see mothers walking their little ones to school each morning and then meeting them at the gate at the end of the day to walk them home, even when the kids are a little older. I walk by a small vegetable stand on a side street and see a grandfather playing with his granddaguther with makeshift drums. They both giggle. We should all be so lucky to have our priorities arranged this way.
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Oaxaca is only a 10 pesos ride away via collective. The city itself is block after block of beautiful old buildings.
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The Church of Santo Domingo is on my short list for this city and I head toward it first.
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Inside it is ornately decorated and I think its the most beautiful of all the cathedrals I have seen in Mexico so far. The convent next door has been converted into a cultural center. The entire place is beautiful.
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We head for lunch in the Zocalo, the central square of the city and on the way I admire the local handcrafted artisan works.
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An elderly man plays the violin on a pedestrian street…everyone does what they can to make a living here.
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The Zocalo is ringed with bars and cafes. And there are people selling their wares all over the plaza.
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If only I had a sidecar or a truck and trailer…..next time.
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The Mercado near the Zocalo is filled with fresh meats, vegetables and fruits, and all sorts of foods. The local mole is mole negro, which I am lucky enough to be able to try the following day, and you can buy all the ingredients for it at the Mercado.
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And in Oaxaca I see for Chapulines for sale…grasshoppers (or is it crickets? not that it really matters). So our Swiss friends bring some back to camp for a dinner one night and treat us to this local favorite.
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I try some little ones (as you can imagine are a little easier to get down than the big ones), and they were flavored like lemon so weren’t too bad. The larger ones were spicy and I tried a few in the dinner that Markus and Karin makes for us which really was such a treat. But I think that was enough for me. Markus treats us to a shot of Mezcal, which he says is disinfectant, for dessert. Welcome to Oaxaca.

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