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I Moved to Oaxaca for Its Cultural Richness

Credits: Jose Luis | Adobe Stock images

When I left Mexico City in 2011 after 26 years, I could have moved anywhere. I moved to Oaxaca for its cultural richness and never left.

Our museums are world class. The largest is the Museo Regional de Oaxaca, which is housed in the former administrative center and monastery of the Dominican order. Besides the building being a tour de force of late 16th and early 17th century Spanish Catholic Christian baroque, the collection is one of the most spectacular collections of pre-Hispanic and colonial treasures, including an entire room dedicated to the precious Mixtec objects discovered by Alfonso Caso in Tomb 7 of Monte Albán. The building was superbly restored in the early 1990s and also serves as a venue for classical music concerts.

Next to the museum is the church of Santo Domigo, which also is a spectacular work of art with indescribably beautiful gold-leafed stucco decoration on the ceiling and beautiful side chapels. Recently a new altar was constructed that is faithful to the original style in honor of San Martin de Porres, a very interesting Peruvian saint of mixed African and Spanish descent. Most of the saints honored within Santo Domingo were Dominicans in their earthly lives, and the church remains in the charge of the Dominican order.

If one is interested in participating in Catholic religious life in Oaxaca, there is ample opportunity, including numerous charitable organizations. Across the street from the Regional Museum is the beautifully restored colonial building that is home to the IAGO, or Institute of Graphic Art of Oaxaca.  In addition to being a venue for excellent exhibitions of graphic art, the institute also houses one of the best libraries dedicated to art history in Mexico.  In the rear of the building is a large open patio where one can enjoy coffee while reading.

Six blocks away from the IAGO is the Museo de Arte Prehispánico de Rufino Tamayo, which houses the collection of pre-Hispanic art that the great, late Oaxacan artist Rufino Tamayo left for all to enjoy. This extraordinary collection is also housed in a beautifully restored colonial building built around a classic colonial central patio.

A few blocks from the Tamayo museum is the MAPO, or Museo de Pintores Oaxaqueños (Museum of Oaxacan Painters), which also is in a restored colonial structure.  This museum is dedicated to the work of Oaxacan painters, both contemporary and 20th century.  The large central patio also is a wonderful venue for classical music concerts. The last concert I enjoyed there was by our excellent local chamber music orchestra, Camarata Oaxaca, which featured baroque works.

Approximately five blocks from the MAPO is the Centro Cultural de San Pablo, which contains not only a textile museum displaying masterpieces of handmade Oaxacan textiles, but also a large multi-room exhibition space where frequently changing temporary exhibitions of all sorts can be enjoyed.  Here again a large central patio serves as a venue for classical music concerts.

And just a few blocks from the San Pablo is the majestic Teatro Macedonio Alcala, a stunning Belle Époque opera house built during the Porfirian period where, in addition to enjoying simulcasts of the Metropolitan Opera from New York City, the local Symphony Orchestra performs.

If culture is important to you and you are looking for a destination to visit or make your new home, you cannot beat Oaxaca. I moved to Oaxaca for its cultural richness and have never been disappointed.