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Cuidad Oaxaca

Written on: Saturday February 9th, 2008

A journal entry from: Camping Mexico

After a 6 hour drive that snaked relentlessly through the Sierra Madre del Sur we finally arrived in Oaxaca City. This state capital has a strong reputation for its impressive collection of authentic Mexican handicrafts, which results from the diversity of indigenous peoples in the surrounding areas. Colin and I both agreed that Oaxaca City maintains a certain cosmopolitan feel, unlike any other Mexican city we have visited thus far. Downtown, there is an interesting dichotomy between the old, colonial Mexico, and the new, increasingly touristy Mexico. The sidewalks are much more forgiving, there are basura bins on several street corners, there are even crosswalks with pedestrian crossing signals, and the streets are identified with street name signs. These are the luxuries in life which we have missed and sometimes forgot even existed.

The Zocalo is a large square in the heart of town, and is quite peaceful, despite all of the constant crowds. It is lined with European style cafés, and surrounded by beautiful colonial cathedrals and churches. Colin and I sat at one of the cafes yesterday afternoon, and it almost felt like we were somewhere other than Mexico, that is, until we were approached ?hamaca, amiga??

No gracias. No, no, I said no gracias. No gracias.

We visited a few of Oaxaca?s impressive cathedrals, the oldest dating back to 1553. Gold appeared to be the trend at the time, and they weren?t afraid to use it, everywhere. Inside the Santo Domingo cathedral, nearly every square inch is in 3-D relief and most of it is gilded gold. It is stunning. The wonderful thing about these cathedrals and churches, aside from their incredible architecture, is that they are always cool and peaceful inside. I swear, it can be over 35 degrees outside and totally chaotic, and inside the church it will always be very pleasant.

The artisan markets here definitely stand up to their reputations. And they are ridiculously inexpensive! I?d be lying if I said they are totally void of ?Mexican junk?, but they are certainly of a significantly higher lever than the other markets we have browsed to date. They lack the atrocious fluorescent neon colored moo-moos, oversized t-shirts, and plastic shot glasses of the previous markets, and instead are overflowing (literally) with hand painted, hand carved, and hand woven crafts. The first time Colin asked how much a small piece of hand carved black pottery was, we were floored. I had over- estimated by nearly 5 times. And I thought I was being cheap. But, you?ve got to stick to the markets for the kind of prices we are looking for, the stores are much pricier. Gringo owned too, I?ll bet.

This morning we toured the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. The buildings are old military barracks, and were restored in 1994. The collection here is impressive and expansive. Too bad I?m not yet fluent in spanish, as there were no english explanations to accompany the exhibits. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the morning.

Manana? A lengthy drive to the ruins of Palenque.


From MOM (or J) on Feb 11th, 2008

Your first pictures looked like the area we drove through today on the south west side of the north island of NZ. It is hard to imagine you travelling in Mexicao while we are exploring across the oceans...We have not seen surfing like in your previous blog, but wonderful beaches. Sailed in the Bay of Islands..you would have liked the gorgeous water! We also saw the boiling water pools and hot mud baths today...Keep up the great blog!

From pepperdine on Feb 14th, 2008

ok, I pretty much need one of those mexican wrestling masks. hint hint. real good. happy v-day. WHAP.

From johnz on Feb 18th, 2008

I spent 9 weeks living in Oaxaca city, studying spanish and exploring the surroundings. I hope you made it to Heurve D'Agua? It is outside of Mitla, a spring which litterally spouts from the side of a mountain cliff and for which they have built a pool on the edge of the mountain...very cool. Monte Alban? The ruins in Mitla? Stoked to see how far south you guys have made it. take your time coming home, the weather has only just now started to show signs of cleaning up, you guys can take atleast 2 more months before it will be nice here again! Consider visiting Morelia, lake Chapala and Copper Canyon on the way home! JZ