Our final Mexican destination was Oaxaca, pronounced Wahaca.
Oaxaca City is the principal city of Oaxaca State, and when we landed we knew we were back on the tourist path. But perhaps not the well trodden tourist path? Sure there are tourists but Oaxaca doesn’t always get good press and its pretty far from many of the “tourist” sites, and so there are perhaps less tourists than one could have expected. It is home to a number of expats, and we stayed at a beautiful house turned B&B that belongs to an American expat. It was well situated and within walking distance to many of the sites.
What does Oaxaca have to offer a family with kids?Well firstly, a great walking town with a wonderful market – lots of interesting things for sale including basketfuls of crickets, a local delicacy. Tons of other interesting stuff – ceramics, different foods, other everyday housewares…Secondly, it is home to the original chocolate – chocolate was not eaten by pre-Colombian peoples in Mexico, rather it was drunk, and one can buy steaming cups of Oaxaca style hot chocolate – very different from what we are used to in North America and while we liked it there, we were not successful at recreating it back home. Thirdly, we had some great food – we found a restaurant that served seven different types of mole – mole is a Central American sauce with a chocolate base, that is typically served hot over chicken. It comes in varying levels of spiciness and colour, and we must have eaten four different types and loved each one – note – I have brought my kids up enjoying Tabasco sauce, so spiciness is not usually a major problem in our house.
Oaxaca has some top class sites nearby as well – Monte Alban is a ruined city high up on a hill – full of pyramids, ball courts and other structures seen in many ancient cities throughout Mexico. It is a really great outing for kids – from climbing up a pyramid oto learning about ball games where the loser lost their head makes for a very different kind of history lesson.
And then there are the surrounding villages that excel in arts and crafts – we visited one village well known for its rugs, another famous for its famous carved colourful wooden animals – we were lucky enough to meet members of the Jimenez family, where the tradition all started, and they invited us into their house to show us a scrapbook of mementos gathered from travels all over the world.
Oaxaca has a large indigenous population and there have been periods over the past few years where the city has experienced civil unrest. All I can say, is that we were welcomed with open arms by everybody, and we had a wonderful time. If there are people with grievances, it was clear to us that these have nothing to do with tourists, and we experienced absolutely no problems at all. I’d say pay attention to the news, and if Oaxaca is not mentioned, go there – it’s a highlight of Mexico!
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