5. Support the Local Artisans
Maybe there’s something in the local water, but for some reason Oaxaca seems to produce more talented artists, weavers, embroiderers, potters, tinsmiths, silversmiths, leathermasters and craftspeople than just about anywhere on the planet. Each village seems to have a particular creative specialty that garners global respect. Woolen rugs made with organic dyes and handwoven on a traditional backstrap loom are the particular pride of the textile studios in Teotitlán del Valle. Barro negro, gleaming black clay pottery, is the age-old handmade Zapotec classic from the family-owned workshops around San Bartolo Coyotepec. The most distinctive Oaxacan offering are the alebrijes – whimsical animal figurines whittled from the twisted branches of the copal tree and hand painted with bright patterns. These colorful iconic creatures have become the major source of employment in the studios of San Antonio de Arrazola and San Martín Tilcajete. Don’t worry, if you can’t get out to the rural regions to buy direct as most of the artesanía folk art can be found in Oaxaca City too.
6. Find a Fiesta
Oaxacan people really know how to throw a party. There’s always some celebration going on with special music, dance, food and drink on the agenda. You might consider timing a trip to Oaxaca around three fiestas in particular. The biggest bash of the year is the Gualaguetza, a colourful folk festival in July featuring elaborately costumed exhibitions of Oaxaca State’s traditional dances. The Day of the Dead (Día del los Muertos) festivities begin in mid-October leading up to November 2. Decorative altars and skeletons are erected around town and special food is brought to the cemeteries to welcome back ancestral souls. It’s not as morbid as it sounds as its really more of a happy celebration of life and family. Christmas is another time when Oaxaca goes all out. Festivities are held from mid-December to January 6, with December 23’s “Night of the Radishes” being a quirky highlight. Who can resist the world’s foremost radish-carving competition? Book hotels well in advance during these fiesta times.