Estamos en Oaxaca

Oaxaca turned out to be one of our favourite cities in Mexico. During our time there, we performed our usual routine of walking around and looking at squares and churches – but first lets talk about something just as important –  snacks! Yes, I’m going to talk about snacks before I even say anything about the city of Oaxaca

That’s because there were ’empanadita’ stands everywhere we looked! The empanaditas in Oaxaca are corn tortillas, and they come with a huge variety of fillings. How could we resist stopping to eat an empanadita every 5 minutes?! Let me tell you, it took great will power – but we limited ourselves to two a day….  So, here’s some photos… 🙂

This nun is selling empanaditas.
Empanaditas available in chocolate, ‘milk’, or pineapple flavour.
Empanadita in full glory…

So… back to Oaxaca the city, which is formally known as Oaxaca de Juárez. It’s another city at altitude, sitting at around 1500m above sea level – which brings pleasant daytime temperatures in the 20s during June – which is when we were there. The city has UNESCO World Heritage status, and has a strong indigenous influence, with populations of Zapotec and Mazatec peoples amongst others.

Everywhere we turned, there was something interesting to look at – and so let’s start with the usual selection of churches, town squares, and cobbled streets…

Church in Oaxaca.
Small green church in Oaxaca. Note the empanadita stand outside! 🙂
Another church in Oaxaca.
Busy street in Oaxaca.
Church in Oaxaca.
Yes, yet another church in Oaxaca!
Church in Oaxaca with distant hills in the background.

Oaxaca is also famous for its food and drink – it is home to mole sauces, grasshoppers, and mezcal (more about mezcal later..). We went to check out the market and to see the piles of grasshoppers for sale. Grasshoppers are a delicacy in the region.

The market in Oaxaca.
Inside the market.

I’m not as brave as CC, and so I didn’t get my hair cut at the market – only proper high-end hairdressers for PB’s fine hair…

PB gets his hair cut in Oaxaca.

Now it’s time to talk about Mezcal. Mezcal is a spirit made from the agave plant, and it can be made from any type of agave plant. So far so good, except that technically it can’t be called ‘mezcal’ if the particular agave species is already a designated ‘Denomination of Origin’. The most famous of these is tequila, which is made from blue agave. So mezcal is made from the same type of plant as tequila.

The people of Oaxaca grow up drinking mezcal – it is part of their culture, and there are over 30 different kinds of agave used to make it. The most common one in Oaxaca is called ‘espadin‘. Mezcals tend to be stronger than tequila, and have a smoky flavour. They were traditionally hand-made by small farmers in the area and there is also a distinction between ‘wild’ mezcal – where the plants are growing wild and are hand picked, vs. cultivated – where they are farmed like a crop.

Obviously we had to drink some mezcal while in Oaxaca, and so we found a mezcal bar that had mezcal tasting available.

Cuish – mezcal bar.

We had a GREAT time at the mezcal bar – the guy there was really friendly and he told us everything about mezcal – the history, the process of making it, the current surge in popularity in the United States, and the different types of agave and flavours. We had a tasting session of four different mezcals made from four different agave species.

The four mezcals that we tasted.

We enjoyed all four of them, and they did all taste very different. After our tasting we stayed for another glass, and we couldn’t resist buying some to take away with us… 🙂 We ended up with a bottle of Tepextate (Agave Marmorata) at 50% alcohol and a lovely smoky flavour! 🙂

Here is our lovely bottle of mezcal. No, I’m not drinking it already… honest… it’s water in that glass…

After all the mezcal we were ready to party! OK, not really, we are old people after all – but we did come across a kind of party/festival event in the streets of Oaxaca. We had no idea what was going on really, so we just stood and watched the action.

Strange puppet at the street celebrations.
We assumed that these people were part of the celebration. (We didn’t ask them to pose for this photo…)
It wasn’t clear if this skeleton was part of the celebration.

As if the churches, squares, mezcal, and street celebrations weren’t enough – there was also an abundance of street art – with murals and stencils all over the place. There were so many of these that they are going to have to go in a separate blog post – coming soon…

So that just leaves the church of Santo Domingo – which seemed to be a focal point for people to gather and hang out. It was near all the pedestrianised shopping and eating streets, and so there were always lots of people around and we passed by many times. We liked it a lot because it had a big square in front of it with lots of agave plants – yes, we can’t get enough of agave now…

Church of Santo Domingo in Oaxaca.

As usual in Mexico, it wasn’t long before we went past and there was some kind of party going on. This one seemed to involve drinking and dancing.

People are gathering in front of the church.
The dancing has begun!
The drinking has begun!

And so, that’s about it from Oaxaca – apart from the street art which is coming in the next post… I will leave you with some dancing by the church….

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