After the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, where walking down a street is like being incorporated into a steer stampede, we were grateful for slower pace of Oaxaca. When in Mexico City, many of the restaurants had such and such Oaxaca style. We were anxious to explore the cuisine firsthand, but we were also interested in the cultural mix.
Known for the number of indigenous peoples living here, the Zapotecs and Mixtecs are the most numerous, but there are sixteen different recognized groups within the state. The State of Oaxaca is one of the most biologically diverse in the country. We learned that Mexico is one of the top five most biologically diverse countries in the world.
Settling into our studio apartment, which is clean, well equipped, and full of light was a joy after the Mexico City disaster. One thing that took some getting used to was having a Madonna statue at the head of our bed. There was the temptation to see if we could make her blush.
Though it is about a 20-minute walk to the city center, it is not bad at all and we have done it multiple times each day. The weather has been glorious in the mid to upper 70s each day and dropping down into the mid-50s at nighttime.
The Plaza de la Constitución or Zócalo is the center of all attention and where all the action starts and spreads out from there. Covered with trees, planters, and sidewalks in the center, on the outer side are restaurants, churches and museums. Oaxaca has not caught up with Mexico City in providing English translations in their museums, which was a minor deterrent for us. However, the city is overflowing with art galleries, photography exhibits and craft showrooms that have kept us culturally in tune with the vibes of the culture.
As most Spanish conquered areas, this one is also lousy with Catholic churches. It is difficult to walk more than four blocks without running into another one. The primary one is Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. As I said, four blocks away is Santo Domingo de Guzmán, but later transformed into the Centro Cultural Santo Domingo.
Just four blocks away from the Cathedral of Our Lady in another direction is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. Strangely, a priest who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary inside of a box built this church. A small museum, Museo de la Basilica de Nuestra Señora de La Soledad, stands at the back of the church showing the virgin’s dresses. Of course, the dresses are not authentic, obviously, but Spanish cultures seem to love dressing her up like an overgrown plaster doll. There is also a painting of her as homage. We have witnessed this often in Central and South America.
Templo y Exconvento de San Juan de Dios is the oldest surviving church in the city. Completed in 1701, it has historical significance as being the place where the first mass in Oaxaca was celebrated on the site in 1521.
I have been trying to make a conscious effort to stop taking dozens of photos inside each church. After a short time, they all run into each other. There are hundreds of other colorful and interesting things to catch the eye and imagination.
Oaxaca has definitely slowed our pace. We have not been as frantic to see everything and do everything. We are just going with the flow and it is great.