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July in Oaxaca: The Mexican pageantry of the Guelaguetza Alvin Starkman

Tehuana women in their elaborate traditional dress. © Oscar Encines, 2008
With pageantry unrivalled in all of Mexico, the Guelaguetza is the most colorful and exhilarating of the multitude of festivals in Oaxaca. And in a state with sixteen different indigenous cultures, each with its own unique traditions including language, food, music, dress and dance, it should come as no surprise that the annual two-week July extravaganza draws both Mexican nationals and tourists from all corners of the globe. read more

Tejate: Drink of Aztec rulers and Zapotec gods Alvin Starkman

Tejate is a pre-Hispanic corn and cacao based drink. It is likely the only complex food recipe in all Mexico still enjoyed today just as it was thousands of years ago in Oaxaca. When visiting a Oaxaca... read more

Mexico's Scorpion Mezcal empowers Oaxaca women Alvin Starkman

Erica is sitting in the office of her boss of eight years, Douglas French, owner of Scorpion Mezcal in San Agustín de las Juntas, Oaxaca. French has just informed her that she qualifies to become a pu... read more

Mexico's Frida Kahlo in Oaxaca Handicrafts Alvin Starkman

The Mexican state of Oaxaca is renowned for its handicrafts. From black pottery and handloomed Zapotec rugs to silverwork and alebrijes, the collector will find a wealth of beautiful handcrafted work. ... read more

Hierve el Agua: Bubbling springs and petrified waterfalls in Oaxaca, Mexico Alvin Starkman

Hierve el Agua is stunning, one of Oaxaca's most impressive attractions — and perhaps one of the most spectacular in the entire country. Yet, surprisingly, it is one of the least visited. With its bu... read more

Christmas magic in Oaxaca: A multi-faceted experience of culture & tradition Alvin Starkman

Oaxaca is magical — its history, culture, art, architecture and folklore. The traditional Guelaguetza, celebrated in July, is a quintessential expression of Oaxaca tradition. Now, Noches Magicas de G... read more

Antiques and collectibles in Central and Southern Mexico Alvin Starkman

The Sunday open air stalls at the Lagunilla in Mexico City, the expansive roadside shops just north of San Miguel de Allende, the stores and weekend marketplace at Los Sapos in Puebla, and good old fas... read more

Ecotourism in Mexico: Arroyo Guacamaya, Ixtlan and the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca Alvin Starkman

Arroyo Guacamaya is one of the closest ecotourism sites to the City of Oaxaca, accessible by private vehicle in about an hour, or via public transportation. La Guacamaya has most if not all of the fea... read more

Medical and dental treatment and coverage in Oaxaca Alvin Starkman

Aside from the small, private hospitals, often referred to as clínicas, there are four publicly funded and insurance-based hospitals in the city, as well as a hospital just outside of the city offering specialized treatment for a number of serious ailments. There is the Red Cross facility available to all, often used for emergency treatment only. The civic hospital provides free services or treatment at a modest cost based on a sliding scale respecting means. ISSSTE is a federally funded facility restricted to government employees who are members of a union. Finally, there is IMSS... read more

The Oaxaca Lending Library and Community Center Alvin Starkman

The Oaxaca Lending Library (OLL) has been in existence for over 40 years, and is one of the largest English language libraries in all of Mexico. Over the past decade it has grown into a vibrant community center, in large part due to the dedication of its many volunteers. read more

Children's cooking classes at Mexico's Casa de los Sabores in Oaxaca Alvin Starkman

What better way to begin a series of children's cooking classes than with pizza and mango smoothies? Chef Pilar Cabrera's Casa de los Sabores began their inaugural class with the basics of kitchen safe... read more

Tattoo artists in Oaxaca: a lawyer and a fine arts graduate make strange bedfellows with tatuadores Alvin Starkman

Lawyer Kaireddyn ("Kai") Orta began fabricating his own, rudimentary tools for making tattoos in 1996, while still in high school here in Oaxaca, Mexico. One day, a neighbor saw him carrying a shoe box, and asked him what was in it. Kai showed him the adapted motor, needles, ink and other paraphernalia. The neighbor was the recipient of Kai's first tattoo. Kai then began doing tattoos for his schoolmates. read more

CORAL: Non-profit center in Oaxaca assists hearing impaired Mexican children Alvin Starkman

When the Cole-Gardner family recently vacationed in Oaxaca, Mexico, they brought along several basketballs, soccer balls and baseball gloves, to donate to indigenous children without ready access to su... read more

Women potters of San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca Alvin Starkman

Every Sunday Gloria awakens at 3:00 a.m., and begins preparing tejate, a frothy, tasty corn and cacao based drink, which she will offer for sale in the Tlacolula market. A couple of hours later, her si... read more

Mexico's Mezcal Monkey: collectible ceramic folk art from Oaxaca Alvin Starkman


A hot collector's item, the ceramic mezcal monkey is designed to hold mescal, the spirit distilled from the baked, then fermented agave plant.
© Alvin Starkman, 2010
Designed to hold mescal, the Chango Mezcalero has become a very collectible folk art item whose history has been recounted infrequently, if at all. While by all accounts it originated in the State of Oaxaca, home of mezcal — the spirit distilled from the baked, then fermented agave plant — it's now highly sought after by collectors residing much further abroad.

The traditional Mezcal Monkey was used to hold, display and/or gift mezcal. The clay bottle is just that, usually with a stopper made of cork, or a small piece of corn cob. read more

Enrique Flores: Philanthropic Oaxaca artist has the golden touch Alvin Starkman

Magical nude by Oaxaca artisa Enrique Flores
© Alvin Starkman, 2009
Enrique Flores is one of the most prolific Mexican artists of his generation. Of course having been mentored by the late great master of contemporary Mexican art, Rodolfo Morales, hasn't hurt; nor has the fact that two of Oaxaca's most prominent art galleries, Indigo and Arte de Oaxaca, were his patrons for many years. But there's no substitute for hard work, talent, and vision. read more

Seat belt, cell phone and speed limit laws are enforced in Oaxaca Alvin Starkman

Driving in Oaxaca, Mexico, became a little more difficult in September / October, 2009. That's when federal, state and municipal governments actually began enforcing the law, at least in the City of O... read more

Fiona Dunnett: images of self and death in Oaxaca Alvin Starkman

Comic strips, a young Canadian's self portraits, and photographs of violent deaths in a Mexican daily newspaper, make strange bedfellows. But they constitute a major part of the driving force for the c... read more

Case study from Oaxaca, Mexico: Am I paying my staff too much? Alvin Starkman

Day of The Dead is upon us in Oaxaca, and Juanita's hotel still has rooms available for one of the busiest times of the year. The City of Oaxaca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Southern Mexico, relies on tourism for its very existence. Juanita is trying to figure out where she went wrong, realizing that Día de Los Muertos should top up her bank balance, just like the Christmas season, the summertime festival weeks known as Guelaguetza, and Easter. Time and again she asks herself, "Am I paying my staff too much?" read more

A driving tour from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque: Part Two Alvin Starkman

The ancient Maya city of Palenque
The countryside in Southern Mexico is tropical and beautiful. There are "must sees" all along the way as you drive from San Cristobal de las Casas to Oaxaca. read more

A driving tour from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque: Part One Alvin Starkman

Street Scene
Copoya, Chiapas
This 2,000 kilometer driving tour serves the needs of vacationers to Oaxaca who also want to take in the sights in central Chiapas. It is also useful those who want to at least consider visits to the Pacific coastal resorts in Oaxaca and the Gulf beaches and cultural sights in the state of Veracruz… all without foreclosing a side trip to Puebla. The south central circuit of Mexico provides travelers with a leisurely and culturally diverse driving segment within the context of a two or three week vacation, with virtually no backtracking. read more

A wedding and christening in rural Oaxaca: The mandate of tradition Alvin Starkman

A wedding and christening in rural Oaxaca
We usually think of weddings and baptisms as rites of passage we attend on separate occasions. But November 27, 2008, marked the celebration of both in San Lorenzo Albarradas: the nuptials of a couple in their early twenties, and the baptism of their three-year-old daughter. What resulted was a melding of highly organized custom... read more

Consumer protection in Oaxaca, Mexico: A case study Alvin Starkman

PROFECO has its limitations. However, it does provide an important and valuable alternate means of dispute resolution.

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Traveling light to Oaxaca? Alvin Starkman

Every visitor to the city of Oaxaca has the potential to make a significant contribution. read more

Manuel Reyes: sculptor, painter and renaissance man from Oaxaca's Mixteca Alta Alvin Starkman

"Look at that female warrior over there... notice the belt I made for her, with penises hanging from it, her trophies." Artist Manuel Reyes aspires to exhibit his work in art galleries in Oaxaca and M... read more
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