The wait is over. Last week, I teased you with my top 5 Places to Visit in Oaxaca. This week, you know I got you! Let me know if you’d like to see more more guides like this—Just type YesPleaseMore and hit reply.
Here’s 5 Antiracist Suggestions For Your Next Trip To Oaxaca:
1. Get To Know Zapotec History:
There’s a beautiful wild old landmark tree in Tule that’s over 2,000 years old and a stout 119 feet in diameter. Zapotecs joke that they are as old and short as El Árbol del Tule. It’s not funny ha-ha, but it’s also not funny that in over 20 years of fancy academic schooling, I never learned about a civilization that boasted a complex city as early as 500BC. It’s worth appreciating the outsize contribution indigenous meso-American cultures made to our ideas of civilization today.
ProTip: Plan at least a half day visiting Monte Alban and another half day for Mitla. If you’d like a reliable and warm driver to either place, hit me up and I’ll share our driver Juan’s info.
2. Visit the Afromexican Museum of Culture:
Afro-Mexicans have been in Oaxaca longer than the U.S. I mentioned this to you in a previous note. What’s fascinating to me though is how wide and varied the black experience is–both across time and continents. White supremacy made blackness an identity. Before that, we were just busy being Tswanas and Shonas or Yorubas. To that end, if you can swing a trip along the coast, seek out Afro-Mexicans. There’re a community of just over 1 million—about 1% of Mexico’s population. For the first time in 2020, the national census recognized Afro-Mexican as an official ethnic group. I was very sorry to miss it.
ProTip: ProTip: Not enough time for the coastline? Make sure you check out the jaw-dropping art mural by a local artist honoring enslaved Africans brought to Oaxaca. On the street just north of the Botanical Gardens, Calle de Berriozabal.
3. Eat Pre-Spanish Food:
Funny story. We ran into a group of Quebec-Canadians. Nice folks who came to tan and party. Fair enough. We mentioned how ga-ga we are for Oaxacan food. No joke, we’re talking one of the finest cuisines in the world. And you know me and my loud mouth, It’s the best food in the world, I said. Better than French? The pasty sunbather shot back…as if it’s even a competition. 😝 Listen. I’m not going to get into why centering Rome and French food as the sole or finest products of human civilization is part of the bedrock project of white supremacy. Suffice to say, Traditional Oaxacan Food is No fcn Joke. Bar none.
ProTip: Our favorite spots included Levadura de Olla (try the guava mole!) and
Tierra del Sol. I could eat at Carmen’s street Taqueria every damn day.
4. Learn Why Mezcal Production Is A Spiritual Practice:
Mezcal is the world’s most complex distilled spirit, with a history that stretches back into ancient, pre-Hispanic agave cultivation. Many maguey varieties require 25 years or more to reach maturity, necessitating an inter-generational engagement with the plant both in the wild and on family owned farms. It’s a beverage with spiritual importance to Zapotec and Miztec people, making mezcal a ritual beverage, not a European-style bar drink. Hands down the most moving experience during my 3 month-stay in Oaxaca was attending a family contentada in a small puebla. We arrived before dawn and shook many old Zapotec grandparent’s hands. Breakfast was fresh-made bread and atole, an earthy drink of thinned corn. As the groom’s family arrived and the day’s ceremonies began, everything was marked with abundant offers of mezcal. Again and again, trays of homemade mezcal were brought out for everyone. I can safely say I sent my body into spirit remission the rest of my trip. But I can also say the drink served as a sacred medium between two families honoring each other and promising two young lovers to each other.
ProTip: Rent a car or get in a cab and head to Lalocura. This tiny distillery is a mezcal mecca run by Master Distiller Eduardo “Lalo” Angeles. Better yet, get yourself invited to a traditional wedding, engagement or other life cycle event in a tiny puebla where the grandfathers tend the barbacoa underground and the grandmothers ply you with gifts before you leave. Also! Get in on Levadura de Olla’s fermented pulque, mezcal’s ancient predecessor. There’s a growing cottage industry of women-led mezcal distilleries, I didn’t visit any but even Google supports that move.
5. Buy From Indigenous Artisans:
Art is everyday life in Oaxaca. People wear it, they eat it and the city drips with textiles, murals and architecture deeply in conversation with Oaxaca’s ancient past and more recent European influence. One of the things I want to learn more about, for example, is pre-Hispanic architecture and how it’s used today. What you definitely can’t miss, is the abundance of artisan crafts on the street and in the markets. Supporting local artists is a no-brainer. My favorite market is about 30min outside Oaxaca City, in Tlacolula. Everyone comes, including the most ornately decked-out grandmas you’ve ever seen, proudly wearing their cultural art. The Sunday open-air gathering is one of the oldest and largest continuous markets in Mesoamerica.
ProTip: Go early. Wear comfy clothes and bring cash. You’ll wanna buy errrything! But start with the Sunday signature barbacoa lunch for fortification.
Goat vs. Lamb Barbacoa….why choose?