Today we stayed in the main city and did a walking tour with our local guide, Ester. Ester is a very animated lady who tells incredible stories. She does not like to move slowly through things, and when we are taking too long, we will hear a loud “VAMANOS.” She has really brought the experience to life.
We visited a church and were able to see the first bit of Sunday Mass. The church was incredible; the Dominican architecture is detail-oriented, and the churches are all very decorated. I found it a bit difficult to see such an extravagant church and then go outside and experience the poverty found in this country. Church is critical to the environment in Oaxaca; the decorations of the church made me feel it may be the most vital part of life – even above basic needs.
After church we went to the nunnery, which is now a historical museum. The museum is home to the largest collection of historical books in the country. On display were several Codices, which are the Zapotec and Mixtec people’s creation stories. The codices are elaborate pictoral drawings that open like an accordian into one book. After spending several hours looking at the delicate artifacts of the indigenous people, we moved to the Zocalo (town square) for a break.
In Mexico, the Zocalo is the center of much of the activity in the town. The Zocalo in Oaxaca is a park with many different things going on. Men have stands to shine shoes. There are lots of people, including some very young children, trying to sell various things. There are also performances and lots of dances that take place in the Zocalo.
Because we are in Mexico during the Navidades (Christmas holidays), there are poinsettias, lights and a large Nativity all on display. The band that was playing had set up an area for dancing, and all of the girls on the trip were in the middle dancing Flamenco. The locals were applauding and taking many pictures. Dancing is one of the things I never thought I would do; we jumped right in and have embraced Oaxacan culture!
The rest of the day was full of shopping; we went to the Market, which is a crowded area full of vendors. Parts of the market were pretty and full of flowers and fruit. Other areas were dedicated to meats and cheeses. There was even a little “bar” with benches for locals to have a cerveza. Ester bought a bag of crickets (which are a delicacy in Oaxaca), and several of us tried them – again, I never would imagine I could say I willingly ate cricket. We all found some artisan clothing and plan to wear it to dinner tomorrow night.
As of now, the best way I can describe Oaxaca is “open,” as everyone is very willing to share their culture and trade with us. People are all friendly and talkative. Unlike America, everyone walks down the street waiting for others to talk to. People ask if you would like to join them at their table if there is extra room.
Everyone is excited about being here and ready for the adventure!