Before I had arrived in Mexico I had never heard of Oaxaca. As I started to plan for my next destination from Mexico City I settled on Oaxaca. From what I read I was expecting a much slower paced city than the capital and I was not disappointed in what I experienced. Immediately after strapping my backpack on as I left the bus station I felt a difference in the air. As I continued walking towards the center of town I came across a park and noticed a lot more people sitting and relaxing than in the hurried streets of Mexico City. After the overwhelming capital it was quickly clear to see that Oaxaca was going to be a needed change of pace. As I saw more and more people relaxing in the park and less traffic passing by me on the streets I could feel my breathing slow down and I began to realize how hurried I had become in my 8 days in Mexico City.
Settling into the hostel after a mile long walk I accepted my roommate’s invitation to dinner with a happy bunch from the hostel. A night of laughter and wine amongst new acquaintances led to a late morning walk to Santo Domingo Church and across an interesting outdoor art exhibit, 2501 Immigrants. The display contained 2501 small ceramic people standing on sides of the street in front of the famous church. The figures represent people who had left there villages to go to the United States. It took several years to complete the work and over 25 people from the artist’s village helped in it’s completion.
I continued walking down the main pedestrian street to the main plaza of Oaxaca. I sat for a beer at one of the many plaza-side cafes and took it all in. It was nice just to sit with a drink for a while after the days and days of constant planning and running around Mexico City trying to “do it all.” The only somewhat distracting occurrence was the crafts vendor’s frequent unwanted sales pitches.
Another day in the city included stops by the local market for some famous Oaxacan mole and some other new foods for my palate, moletes and tlayudas. There was plenty of excellent Mexican food in Oaxaca. From the carts in the streets and in the park, to the small cafes, I cannot remember a bad meal my entire visit.
Almost my entire time in Oaxaca was filled with a happy, somewhat aimless wandering that lead to a calm stop for a casual drink, chat, delicious food, or relaxing people-watching. I also took a few day trips, including the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban. I suspect the pleasant and artistic atmosphere of Oaxaca keeps it filled with repeat visitors.