It’s taken me a while to get this blog post organised – Oaxaca so far has been a total immersion of experiences, colours, foods, people and Spanish – and to actually try to transcribe my last week into words has seemed too difficult to do everything justice. Where would I start?
So, my plan is to write about Oaxaca de Juárez piece by piece and then you will get some idea of the intricacies and layers in Oaxaca, and those inside my head when I try to figure out how to describe everything.
Oaxaca de Juárez is a city of about 300,000 people, and the capital of Oaxaca state, approx. 280 miles south-east of Mexico City. It was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987. Oaxaca city was founded in 1529, but the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times; some of the earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the Americas has been found within Oaxaca valley. It’s amazing to step inside churches here and know that people have been worshiping in these buildings for hundreds of years, pretty much unchanged from how they appear and are used today.
After travelling so intensively for the last 6 weeks I wanted to just take my time to get to know the city (after all, I have quite some time to become acquainted with it) and so since my arrival on Wednesday night, I have really just wandered around the central area; discovered cafes, markets, supermarkets, visited churches and found an awesome cupcake shop. Oaxaca really is a very beautiful city, and it’s been easy to feel at home here.
Free wifi is offered pretty much everywhere, including in the city park; and there is a thriving coffee culture as well, with cafés (free wifi, courtyards, rooftop terraces, fantastic food) on each block in the central city area. The coffee beans are generally roasted onsite, and it’s certified organic and fair trade too which means that the local growers (in Chiapas and Oaxaca states) are paid fairly for their crops.
Another type of coffee which is common in homes here is café de olla, “coffee of the pot,” which is brewed in a pot on the stove – traditionally in clay pots, but sometimes saucepans, with raw brown sugar called piloncillo, a cinnamon stick and an peel of orange. They make this at my Spanish school, and not only does it smell fantastic, but its provided freely to the students, so I now associate the smell of café de olla with Spanish simple preterite verb forms.
Next week is día de los muertos so the city is gearing up for that 3 day festival – one of the largest for Oaxaca in the calendar year – with decorations, altars, flowers, special ‘pan de muerto’ bread and yes, more firecrackers. It’s certainly a colorful and exciting place to live.