In part one of our adventure to beautiful Oaxaca, we began exploring the city and some of the surrounding area. In this blog we’ll focus more on Oaxaca’s world-renowned food scene and a few additional must-see sights and experiences.
The more we explored, the more Oaxaca kept surprising us. On our first night we had our first “Tlayuda.” It is one of the most representative dishes in that area. You can eat it in almost every corner of the city, but also all around the State.
It’s a big corn tortilla, like the size of a medium pizza, crunchy, with many toppings. Beefsteak, chorizo, cecina (another kind of beef), Oaxacan cheese (the locals call it “quesillo”), beans, chopped onion and cilantro, and of course a variety of hot salsas to choose from. The Oaxaqueños love it, however it may not be for everybody.
When we think about Oaxacan gastronomy we immediately think of mole in its different kinds: negro, amarillo, verde, rojo, coloradito and more, eight kinds of mole in total. Only made in this part of Mexico.
The chocolate from Oaxaca is very well known for its unique flavor. You can find many types of chocolate, from the high processed ones, the artisanal ones, and from the more rustic ones, prepared like Zapotecs did hundreds of years ago. If you are a chocolate lover, this is the place to go, believe us!
Another typical ingredient in the Oaxacan cuisine is “chapulines,” or grasshoppers. They are used in drinks, dishes, by themselves or crushed and mixed with salt. The best part of it is not only are they delicious, but their high fiber content improves the digestive system function, speeds up your metabolism and helps to keep you healthy.
These are just a few examples of the food you can try there. Now, let’s talk about drinks you can find there, a whole world of them! On top of the list we have Mezcal, similar to Tequila, Mezcal is an agave-distilled drink, but it has a smoked flavor. There are at least five different types of Mezcal. You can schedule tours to visit the places where they produce it, and of course, taste their final products.
There are also non-alcohol drinks like “Tejate,” a native drink of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, which is made from corn, cocoa, mamey bone and cocoa flower or cocoa rosita. The making of Tejate is learned and inherited from generation-to-generation, mainly by women who are known as tejateras. It is an excellent source of energy, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. Due to its elaboration based on nixtamalized corn, it provides the same amount of protein and fiber that the consumption of a similar portion of tortillas would provide. It is also an excellent source of hydration, that’s why Tejate has been culturally consumed as a refreshing drink for long days of intense work, particularly in hot periods of time or regions.
The local markets are excellent places to buy the food and drinks mentioned above. The market, or Mercado 20 de Noviembre is located two blocks south of the main square downtown. It is very colorful and full of sounds with all kinds of stores and restaurants. The people are warm and nice and helpful. We spent hours trying to visit every little store, but there are a lot. We were impressed with the black, red and green clay pots, plates and unique decorative pieces. We’ve got a few of those.
If you are a nature explorer, Oaxaca also has amazing sightseeing places, such as The Petrified Waterfalls of Hierve El Agua. Located about 70 kilometers from the city of Oaxaca, it is one of the most spectacular natural heritage sites of the state, between the mountains of the Sierra Mixe and the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca.
The ancient runoff of water with a high content of minerals, mainly calcium carbonate, is responsible for creating the petrified waterfalls. When the water goes to the surface, the air makes it calcify, giving it the appearance of dripping candles. There is only one other phenomenon in the world similar to Hierve el Agua: Pamukale, and it’s Turkey.
The most popular waterfall in Hierve el Agua is El Anfiteatro. It has a height of 60 meters and is diagonal in shape, which created the formation of natural pools. One of them is a mirror of water with an infinity edge on top of it. Although by its name you may think that the water is at a boiling point, it is a mistake. The temperature is totally cool.
Last but not least, the name of “La Guelaguetza” stands out for itself. It is the biggest and most important festivity of the State of Oaxaca and of all Mexico.
The term Guelaguetza comes from the word “guendalezaa” and it means “offering.” It is one of the most popular traditions in the state of Oaxaca and in all of Mexico. The Guelaguetza has its origin in pre-Hispanic times. It is worth mentioning that this festivity began as a ritual that was performed to the ancient gods in the place called by the Zapotecs as “Daninayaaloani,” or hill of beautiful view. At that time the ancient Mexicas worshiped various deities, including the goddess Centéotl, who represented the Goddess of Corn and whom they adored and respected in such a way that they held a celebration in her honor year-after-year, in which they offered dances, rites and a huge banquet that lasted eight days.
The magic of the Guelaguetza starts with the “convite,” a great parade where the Chinas Oaxaqueñas make their star appearance and women from the city go with flowered baskets on their heads, dancing gracefully. Along with them, women from each of the seven regions participate in the parade, accompanied by the musicians playing music from their region. Just magnificent!
We hope that with the two blogs we’ve done on our trip to Oaxaca that we get you excited enough to see it for yourselves!