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Mexico-On-Line » Oaxaca & Huatulco » Oaxaca Things To Do

Oaxaca Things To Do

The charming colonial city of Oaxaca (Wah-hah-kah) sits on a mile-high plateau in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains. It is a gracious, friendly place, with a rich mixture of ancient indigenous and Spanish cultures.

The shady Zócalo (Oaxaca E-7) serves as the social center of the city. From cafes in the arcades around the perimeter, you will see villagers in colorful dress, vendors, university and foreign-language students, tourists, mariachi bands, marimbas and orchestras. Just to the northwest is another gathering place, the Alameda de León (Oaxaca D-6), with arts and crafts stalls.

Many sights are within walking distance of this geographic center. There are 27 colonial churches in Oaxaca, but the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán (Oaxaca F-5) is the most splendid. It dates back to the mid-1500s. The walls and ceiling are extravagant, covered with intricate plaster statues and flowers. A former monestary attached to the church houses a botanical garden, library and bookstore, and the Centro Cultural Santo Domingo museum (Oaxaca F-4). The museum has pre-Columbian artifacts, many in precious metals, from Tomb 7 at Monte Albán, the ancient Zapotec capital floating on a plateau about 5 miles southwest of the city. Buses leave for the ruins from around town (ask at your hotel).

The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Oaxaca E-6), in a restored 16th-century building, has famous Oaxacan and international modern art, temporary exhibits and a courtyard cafe. The Museo Casa de Juárez (Oaxaca E-4), was home for 10 years to the great Zapotec Indian reformer who later became president.

Oaxaca's markets are a prime reason to visit the region. In the city of Oaxaca be sure to stop by the Mercado de Abastos (Oaxaca B-7), Mexico's largest Indian arts and crafts market. They're open every day, but Saturdays are the liveliest! At the Mercado Juárez (Oaxaca D-7) close to the Zócalo, you can find food and flowers as well as cotton and wool dresses, blankets and senapes.

Outside the city towns specializing in crafts abound in Los Valles Centrales. The town of Santa María Atzompa (Valles Centrales Map C-2) is known for its local colored variety of pottery; in San Bartolo Coyotepec (Valles Centrales Map D-2) the more traditional black pottery can be found.

Teotitlán del Valle (Valles Centrales D-4) is Mexico's most famous weaving village. It has long produced woolen blankets and rugs in traditional patterns and now also makes some in stunning contemporary designs. Santo Tomás Jalieza (Valles Centrales E-3) is famous for its cotton textiles. Carved wooden animals are produced in Arrazola (Valles Centrales D-2). The region's major Indian market is held each Sunday around the baroque 17th century Dominican church at Tlacolula (Valles Centrales D-4). Excursions to these villages will prove a most rewarding part of your visit.