Southern Mexico Region

Regions and States

Below are selected articles and recipes from Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, the three states that form the Southern Mexico Region. To see ALL articles and recipes related to this region, please use the following individual state links:

In socio-economic terms, the Southern Mexico Region has longed ranked as one of the poorer regions in Mexico. However, its varied scenery, rich history and extraordinary demographic diversity (dozens of indigenous groups and languages) help to make it one of the more interesting areas for tourists seeking “the real Mexico.”

Here are select articles and recipes related to the Southern Mexico Region:

 

Bronze earrings by Mexican artisan Armando Lozano take the shape of masks. © Alvin Starkman 2008

Armando Lozano Ramirez, master sculptor and jeweler: Oaxaca’s “man of steel”

A Voice from Oaxaca Some 30 years ago, a youthful 27-year-old acquired a piece of machinery by chance. Not knowing exactly what to do with it, or how it could somehow become a positive factor in his life, he took a gamble and purchased some modest tools and metal. Armando Lozano Ramírez was then living […]

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Caldo mixe

Oaxaca’s Sierra Mixe: Exploring an ancient cuisine

On a shelf under the glass top of our coffee table sit two singular and beloved pieces of pottery, reminders of a visit to a wildly beautiful region with a distinctive culture. They bring back vivid memories of the Sierra Mixe, a unique part of the state of Oaxaca with an ancient culinary heritage. One […]

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Riding the cart to the train, near Ixhuatan, Oaxaca © Tony Burton 1985

Did you know? Mexico has many “Est”raordinary railway places

An earlier column, “Microwaves (with a view)”, examined the scenic delights to be found by following the “Microondas” road signs that puzzle many first-time visitors. That column probably didn’t appeal to any passing historians, but another road-sign abbreviation, “EST”, could easily have been invented just for them. EST stands for Estación. In some contexts, this would […]

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Caldo mixe

Mixe meat and vegetable soup: Caldo mixe

Although the Mixe do not eat meat on a daily, or even frequent, basis, they do go all out for a fiesta, and this rich, flavorful meat and vegetable soup soup uses as many kinds of meat as people can get. Either fresh or dried beef, plus both chicken and turkey, are frequently used. This […]

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Tehuana Mamas Cook Up Magic: Food and Fiestas in the Isthmus

Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of Oaxaca is the tremendous difference between one region of the state and another. The sierras which crisscross it form natural boundaries between enclaves of culture which have existed since pre-Hispanic times. One of the most unique and charismatic of these is a group known as istmeños, inhabitants of the Isthmus of […]

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Mexican rice and amaranth pudding: Arroz y amaranto con leche

This variation of the classic arroz con leche is served in Zimatlan, Oaxaca, one of the largest amaranth-producing areas in Mexico. The addition of popped amaranth grains adds nutrients as well as a delicious, nut-like flavor to the Mexican rice pudding. Ingredients 1 cup rice 2 cups water 1 cup milk 1 can condensed milk 1 cup amaranth cereal […]

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A man carries home a very fresh fish in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca © Geri Anderson,1999

Cooking in Puerto Escondido: Fish and fruit from Mexico’s tropics

Two of the biggest buzzwords in today’s media-dominated culinary world are “fresh” and “local,” and on a recent visit to Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, we found the food to be both. Taking advantage of the region’s abundant fresh ingredients, we shopped, cooked and ate our way through the beach town of Puerto Escondido. We had […]

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Barra Vieja Style Shrimp: Camarones Estilo Barra Vieja

This is quick, easy, delicious, and best accompanied by plain white rice. Although the original recipe calls for lard, I much prefer olive or vegetable oil. Ingredients: 2 pounds medium size shrimp 3 tablespoons olive (not extra virgin) or vegetable oil 1 red onion, peeled and sliced into thin crescents (” lunitas“) 4 large cloves garlic, […]

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Chef Pilar Cabrera at her La Olla restaurant and cooking school in Oaxaca © Douglas Favero, 2011

A Oaxaca culinary ambassador: an interview with Chef Pilar Cabrera

On a recent trip to Oaxaca, I had the pleasure of speaking with Pilar Cabrera, chef, cooking instructor and, most recently, participant in Iron Chef Canada. Chef Cabrera kindly took time out from her busy schedule to sit down and discuss the influences that led to this career, as well as her cooking school, ever-changing menus […]

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Juchitan market-style chicken: Pollo del mercado juchiteco

This was one of the prepared foods we picked up at the Juchitan market. Several different ladies were selling this marinated chicken dish, so we picked out one of the friendliest-looking, bought her chicken, and asked for her recipe, which she explained carefully. I didn’t believe how easy it was until I made it at […]

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A Visit To The Curandera

Amid the reconstructed pyramids of Monte Alban, a pageant is performed commemorating ancient legends of how the sun and the moon and the Earth were born, and were set free to roam the heavens. Designed with help from the Dragon Theater of Maine, and performed by local singers, dancers and musicians, “Sol y Luna” will, […]

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Potato and fava bean patties with costeño chile sauce: Tortitas de papas y habas con salsa de chile costeño

The potato tortitas, or “patties” sold inside some of Oaxaca’s markets are superb — light on the inside, with a crunchy golden crust. This variation is typical of the region from Ocotlan south to the coast, ancinnd is served with a costeño chile sauce. The dried broad beans, or fava beans, ground into flour give the […]

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Fish Stew from the Costa Chica: Caldo Largo de Pescado

Ingredients: For the broth: 2 ½ pounds bones from mild white fish, such as snapper or bass, with 1 or 2 heads juice of 1 lime 3 sprigs parsley 1 small onion, roughly chopped 2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped water to cover For the stew: 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 medium onion, chopped 2 […]

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Yam and Orange Dessert: Dulce de Camote y Naranja

Fruit desserts, whether candied, crystallized or compotes, are among the most popular throughout the state of Chiapas. This one is more like a pudding, and may be served chilled or at room temperature, depending upon the time of year and the other courses being served. Chiapans have a collective sweet tooth, and the amount of […]

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Mariscos d’Marlo’s garlic-chile shrimp: Camarones al ajillo

The Juchitan seafood restaurant Mariscos d’ Marlo is understandably popular among locals, with its large, attractive servings of the freshest fish and shellfish. After a wonderfully filling Sunday seafood dinner, I began asking, as usual, for one or two recipes for dishes we had particularly enjoyed. The cooks invited me into the kitchen and gave […]

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Tamarind Chipotle Dressing by Pilar Cabrera: Aderezo de tamarindo y chipotle por Pilar Cabrera

Pilar Cabrara created this dressing was designed for her exclusive Oaxaca Salad. Ingredients 100 ml (about 3 fluid ounces) adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo) 250 ml (about 8 fluid ounces) of apple cider vinegar 125 ml (about 4 fluid ounces) of olive oil 50 grams (about 1 ¾ ounces) of fresh […]

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San Cristobal Style Bread Soup: Sopa de Pan de San Cristobal

The chilly evening air and the long tradition of fine baking in San Cristobal combine to make this soup a welcome repast in that lovely mountain town. Accompanied by a salad, this thick soup could easily serve as a main course. Ingredients: ¼ cup corn oil or lard 1 onion, peeled and chopped 2 tomatoes, […]

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Braised Quail with Garlic and Chile: Guilotas de Tierra Caliente

This recipe is adapted from La Cocina Familiar en el Estado de Guerrero, published by Editorial Océano. It is a typical regional game dish. Ingredients: 4 quail, washed, dried and split down the middle 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped 1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped 4 guajillo chiles, seeded, deveined […]

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Guerrero Style Green Pipian Pozole: Pozole Verde con Pipian de Guerrero

Pumpkin seeds, the characteristic ingredient of green pipian, add an appetizing textural dimension to this pozole, and the poblano chiles and chard that are blended with them provide a bright combination of color and flavor. Ingredients: One recipe Basic White Pozole 4 poblano chiles, seeds and stems removed 8 large Swiss chard leaves, roughly chopped 8 large romaine […]

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Herbed Green Mole: Mole Verde con Hierbas

Green mole is most commonly found in the states of Puebla, Tlaxcala and Oaxaca, where it is one of los siete moles – the seven famous moles, each with a distinctive color, flavor and aroma. Unlike the other moles, which nearly always contain nuts and seeds, this recipe gets its characteristic flavor and bright green color from fresh herbs. […]

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Stuffed Fish Filets with Almond Sauce: Rollos del Mar

Along the Costa Alegre, numerous restaurants serve filets of whatever fish is freshest, stuffed with different combinations of seafood. Shrimp is nearly always used, along with squid or octopus. The almond sauce is a reflection of the Spanish influence on Mexico’s cuisine. Ingredients: For the sauce: 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 6 cloves garlic, chopped 1 […]

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Tropical Mexican pineapple salsa: Salsa de piña

The Pineapple Fair in Loma Bonita, Oaxaca, in the lush, tropical part of the state bordering Veracruz, celebrates months of packing and processing the fruit for world-wide, as well as national, distribution. When buying Mexican pineapples, keep in mind that they stay green after picking, and color, in this case, has nothing to do with […]

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Oaxaca salad by Pilar Cabrera: Ensalada Oaxaca por Pilar Cabrera

Pilar Cabrera, chef, cooking instructor and, most recently, participant in Iron Chef Canada, shares this recipe with Mexconnect readers. Ingredients 250 grams (about ½ pound) of organic lettuce 80 grams (about 3 ounces) chile pasilla toasted (see note, below) 80 grams (about 3 ounces) of julienned tortilla strips, fried in oil 8 pieces of Oaxaca cheese 8 cherry tomatoes […]

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Chiapas style beef with cabbage: Carne de res con col, estilo Chiapas

Chiapas style beef with cabbage is quick, easy, inexpensive and satisfying. And did I say versatile? It can be served with rice, used as a filling for stuffed chiles, or a topping for tostadas. Adapted from Essential Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. Ingredients 1 pound lean ground beef 3 cloves garlic, crushed 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black […]

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Mexican beef chichilo by Pilar Cabrera: Chichilo de res por Pilar Cabrera

Mexican beef chichilo is probably the least known of Oaxaca’s moles. It is one of the only instances where nearly burning the chile gives an intense, smoky taste to the finished product. Pilar Cabrera shares her recipe with us. Ingredients 3 pounds beef rump roast, cubed ½ medium onion ¼ medium garlic bulb 1 medium chayote 1 […]

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Carmen Solis’ chicken estofado: Estofado de pollo de Carmen Solis

To call estofado a “stew” would be like calling Carmen Solis merely a “cook.” She is an artisan in the kitchen – in fact, two kitchens, for Carmen has a modern indoor kitchen as well as the traditional outdoor kitchen, where she prepares many dishes, including beans, over a wood fire. Just as her kitchens and techniques […]

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Corn drying in a Oaxaca milpa © Megan Schlow, 2009

Corn, beans and squash: the life cycle of the milpa

The milpa, or cornfield, is probably the most important element in the life of the rural Mexican farmer, apart from his family, or maybe alongside his family, because the milpa represents generations of his people working the soil. Even in places where agricultural production has been industrialized to the point of overshadowing any importance a milpa might have had before, the […]

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Acapulco style fish filets: Filetes de pescado estilo Acapulco

Fresh fish filets from Mexico’s Pacific coast are lightly marinated in tequila and lime juice, then grilled or sauteed and topped with a fresh salsa, for a delicious, low-fat entree. Acapulco style fish filetsgo well with a side dish of arroz blanco, Mexican-style white rice. Ingredients 4 firm-fleshed fish filets,1″ thick (grouper, sea bass, shark, etc.) 1/3 […]

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Mexican filled plantain croquettes: Croquetas de platano rellenos

Plantains, called plátano macho in Spanish, play an important role in the diet of southern Mexicans. They should not be used in cooking until ripe, at which point they will be nearly black all over. These tasty croquettes are filled with beans or cheese. Ingredients: 4 ripe plantains, skins left on, cut in half 4 tablespoons flour […]

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Chiapas style chicken and fruit stew: Estofado de pollo en frutas

Somewhat akin to the manchamanteles of Oaxaca and Puebla, this Chiapan main dish typically uses very little chile. Instead it is characterized by the sweet and tart contrast of the vinegar marinade and the fruit. Ingredients: 1 chicken, cut into serving pieces ¼ cup grated onion 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and mashed in a […]

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My journey with La Calaca: a Day of the Dead experience

My journey with La Calaca: a Day of the Dead experience

An opalescent sky muted the harshness of the emerald earth as the old car struggled up the rock-filled Mexican road, leaving the breeze blown coast behind. I had begun a journey deep into the verdant mountains of Oaxaca, peaks that faded into the haze, massive blue-gray shapes filled with mystery and magic… and little else. […]

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The beautiful church of Santo Domingo is very popular for religious rites of passage such as quince años, weddings, funerals and first communions

History of Oaxaca: The Colonial Era

History of Oaxaca Part 2 – Colonial Era Part 1 Pre-hispanic Era Welcome to the continuation of an overview of life in Oaxaca, past and recent. In this article, we will look at Oaxaca in the colonial period from 1521 to 1821, when Mexico received its independence from Spain. The Aztec capital of Gran Tenochtitlan […]

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Radish sculpture of Frida Kahlo painting a portrait of Diego Rivera © Tara Lowry, 2013

Radiant radishes: La Noche de Rabanos in Oaxaca

For one night of the year in Oaxaca, Mexico, the Raphanus sativus, or radish as it is more commonly known, escapes its destiny as root vegetable side dish and becomes art. Thousands upon thousands of radish revelers turn out on December 23rd to check out the newest vegetable-turned-art creations on display in the Zocalo. The artists have […]

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Small Oaxaca villages along the road to Sierra Guacamaya © Alvin Starkman, 2011

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

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 features and attractions of the more distant ecotourism locales in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, including mountain biking, nature trails […]

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Mexican scrambled eggs with dried shrimp: Huevos revueltos con camarones secos

I went through several versions of Mexican scrambled eggs with dried shrimp, a common dish in Oaxaca’s Isthmus region, to find my favorite. In the Isthmus, it is made with camarones oreados, or partially dried shrimp, described in Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca al Gusto, where the recipe uses epazote and chiles. This take on dried shrimp and scrambled eggs uses […]

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Chiapas style pork empanadas: Empanadas chiapacorceñas

A juicy pork filling, flavored with spices, makes these substantial Chiapas style pork empanadas a good lunch or late supper dish. Any leftover roast meat would be good here. The dough is traditionally made with pork lard, though butter works well. To coarsely grind the spices as called for, I put them together in a […]

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Scorpion Mezcal barrels

Mescal

Timothy J. Knab Mescal, mescaline, mescal bean, mescal button; what are they? They are all intoxicants, which was what the word mescal meant in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Today mescal generally refers to a type of aguardiente – water with a bite, firewater, a liquor distilled from the agave, a relative of the century plant or maguey commonly used to […]

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Oaxaca white beans with dried shrimp: Frijoles blancos con camaron seco

This recipe for white beans with dried shrimp from the southern Pacific coast of Oaxaca is adapted from Susana Trilling’s wonderful regional cookbook, Seasons of My Heart. Use other beans, such as fava, and try substituting cilantro for the traditional hierba santa used in Oaxaca. Ingredients ½ pound whole dried shrimp, peeled, with heads removed and reserved 2 tablespoons […]

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Mexican marinated mixed vegetable salad: Chileajo

When we lived in Oaxaca, I liked to go the food stands that were right outside the university faculties downtown, especially the school of architecture, which was right next to a small park, with plenty of room for the food vendors to set up their ingredients and comales. Students are usually on limited budgets and know how […]

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Lagos de Montebello

Off the beaten path: Lagos de Montebello. Chiapas

Don’t worry if tourism hotspots like Acapulco or Cancun are not your cup of tea. Mexico has many `hidden’ treasures unspoiled by mass tourism. The Parque Nacional Lagunas de Montebello, also known as Lagos de Montebello, is one of these beauties. My travel partner and I vowed to visit the park after being enchanted by […]

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Central Valley of Oaxaca: Oaxaca city, Monte Alban

Published or Updated on: January 1, 2003 by Tony Burton © 2009

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Colorful aprons on display in the market of Ocotlan, Oaxaca Karen Hursh Graber, 2011

Market day in Ocotlan, Oaxaca: Gourmet grazing in Southern Mexico

Bricks of rich Mexican chocolate are flavored with coconut from Pacific shores. Aromatic herbs are displayed in beautifully arranged baskets, their scent alone whetting the appetite. Sweet local honey is offered for tasting on slices of waxy, pale yellow yams. No, this is not a high-end gourmet emporium or a trendy organic supermarket. This is […]

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The traditional Maya sweatlodge in Chiapas: Temazcal and Xun

San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, where I chose to live five years ago, is a city time almost forgot. Situated in the highland valley of Jovel at an elevation of 2,100 meters, it’s a city mingling future and past. As the gateway to mountainous communities, more indigenous than mestizo, it’s a city where ancient […]

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Morning Glory (Moonflower) vine

Did You Know? Bouncing balls and Mexican ingenuity

That’s right! They wouldn’t! And just think of the hours of pleasure that a simple rubber ball gave you as a child. Would you have had as much fun if it hadn’t had a good bounce? I don’t think so… It has long been known that the pre-Columbian peoples of Mexico had rubber objects, including […]

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Mexican Oaxaca-style lentils: Lentejas oaxaqueñas

This spicy-sweet, meatless main dish is traditional Oaxacan Lenten fare. The combination of spices with fruit is characteristic of southern Mexican cooking. Lentils are one of the fastest-cooking legumes and do not require soaking in advance. Ingredients 1 pound lentils 8 cups water 10 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped 2 medium white onion, peeled […]

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Tortillas In Oaxacan Tomato Sauce: Entomatadas Oaxaqueñas

This typical Oaxacan dish can be served as breakfast, light supper, or as a main meal accompanied by grilled meat or chicken. It is also fine as an appetizer or snack. The depth of flavor in this sauce is obtained by roasting the ingredients on a dry comal or skillet before blending them. Ingredients: 1 pound roma […]

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Rabbit and corn stew: Segueza

This ancient dish is a specialty of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca. When we lived in Oaxaca, I learned about segueza from Maribel Bautista who prepares traditional Zapotec food at La Cúpula Restaurant and B&B in the rug-weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle. Seguesa is often made with chicken, but the oldest way is with rabbit, since there were […]

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Bahias de Huatulco, Oaxaca. Photo: Geri Anderson

Huatulco: an undiscovered paradise

I just returned from four days in Huatulco, located along the coast of Oaxaca at the end of the Southern Sierra Madre mountains. The area’s nine bays and twenty-three beaches stretch 35 kilometers along the Pacific Ocean’s seashore between the Coyula and Copalita rivers. After the horrible death of my poodle Pierre, I needed to […]

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Oaxaca and the Pinotepa Nacional

I just returned yesterday from a two-week trip through central and southern Mexico. A girlfriend and I decided to drive, rather than fly and, although I prefer driving on the autopistas (toll roads), she prefers taking the back roads. We compromised. When I drove, I chose; when Lyn drove, she chose. I have a ’93 Ford Explorer. […]

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Cancun to Oaxaca – The bus ride of 27 pedicures

My friends asked, “You’re going by bus? Why?” I rationalized about all the experiences I’d have to write about. After vacationing for a week in the Yucatan, I was heading back to Oaxaca, where I’m spending the winter. I told my friends that taking a bus from Cancun to Oaxaca would be a great way […]

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Oaxacan black mole: Mole negro oaxaqueño

The most famous of Oaxaca’s many moles, this sauce can be served with turkey, chicken, or pork; however, turkey is the meat of choice for festive occasions. In Mexico, the ingredients for large batches of mole are usually taken to a molino – mill – to eliminate the laborious process of grinding on the metate. The following recipe is quite manageable using a […]

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Acapulco in about 1954

Did you know? Mexico was a very different place fifty years ago

G. M. Bashford’s Tourist Guide to Mexico was first published exactly fifty years ago in 1954. It was one of a spate of motoring book guides written after World War II as Americans began to hit the open road and drive south in search of sunshine and adventure. How much has Mexico really changed in […]

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Tehuana women in their elaborate traditional dress. The underskirt is lace while the skirt and bodice are embroidered black velvet. Coins form part of their sumptuous gold jewelry. Their performance is part of the annual Guelaguetza festivities in Oaxaca, held the last two Mondays of July. © Oscar Encines, 2008

July in Oaxaca: The Mexican pageantry of the Guelaguetza

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 […]

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Oaxaca to Guadalajara: The good.. the bad.. & the ugly

Posted by charlie g. on April 11, 1999 On the road again – Oaxaca to Guad – The good, the bad and the ugly After getting set up to stay in Oaxaca for a while I decided last week to make a quick trip to Guadalajara and Ajijic to pick up some stuff I left […]

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Traditional Maya house in Yucatan © John G. Gladstein, 2008

Tricksters, avengers and guardian spirits: Mexican Ghosts

The child, they said, was old enough to collect leña — kindling — from the rugged Chiapas hillsides and to mount and ride a burro. His peasant parents called him “hombrecito” — “little man” — and trusted him to care for the few chickens and goats that provided the family with sustenance. One moonless night, awakened by the barking […]

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Fishing boats, Puerto Angel

Puerto Angel, Oaxaca: Little Jewel On The Bay

“Port of the Angel” is a little known fishing village and beach getaway on the south coast of Mexico. Six hours from Oaxaca City and midway between Huatulco and Puerto Escondido, this beautiful little bay is almost completely encircled by steep hills linked like a jewel-studded necklace; such is the magic of Puerto Angel. The […]

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Cliff divers at Acapulco carry on the famous tradition of cliff diving © Gerry Soroka, 2009

Did You Know? Mexico in the Guinness world records: part one

In the current edition of Guinness, the Mexican responsible for most records is Sergio Rodriguez Villarreal from the northern state of Nuevo León. He specializes in creating giant Christmas figures and holds five records at the moment for the “biggest” ornaments which are (respectively) an angel, silver bauble, bell, candle and wreath. Rodriguez first designs […]

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Oaxaca squash vine soup with corn dumplings: Sopa de guias con chochoyones

When we lived in Oaxaca, the vegetable stand on the corner sold all the fresh ingredients for squash vine soup together in a bag. In that part of the country, it is a rainy season staple and has been since before the Conquest. The only addition after the Spaniards arrived was the lard in the […]

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Oaxaca chile and garlic seasoning paste: Chintestle

If you live in or visit Oaxaca, by all means buy some pasilla de oaxaca chiles, sometimes called chile mixe. These have a much different taste from regular pasilla chiles. Although in the Mixe, this chile paste is eaten as-is, spread on large, crispy tortillas, it is a good seasoning paste. Make a batch of it to use as […]

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Chicken in almond mole: Pollo en mole almendrado

This recipe uses more almonds than most and eliminates the chocolate. It is a Oaxaca style, rather than a Puebla style, almendrado. 1 3-4 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces salt and pepper corn oil for sautéing 4 cloves garlic, peeled 1 medium onion, peeled, halved, and stuck with 2 whole cloves 1 piece cinnamon stick […]

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Mexican orange chicken: Pollo en naranja

A specialty of Oaxaca, where fruit is often cooked with meat and poultry, this dish is easy and delicious. For a variation, try substituting pineapple slices for the oranges. This recipe is from Oaxacan cook Maria Conception Portillo, who collected over 250 Oaxacan home-style recipes. Ingredients 1 chicken, cut into serving pieces 2 tablespoons corn oil […]

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Pineapple Chicken: Pollo en Pina

The combination of chicken and fruit is a hallmark of southern Mexican cooking. This recipe is adapted from one by Maria Concepción Portillo, a native of Oaxaca who collected over 250 recipes from her home state. Freshly ground spices make a big difference in cooking, and I recommend buying a spice grinder or a coffee […]

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Refreshing squash drink: Agua de chilacayote

The bottle gourd, cucurbita Ficifolia, a rather bland member of the squash family, is common in Oaxacan cuisine, either cooked in stews, used to make a dulce something like candied pumpkin, or in this unique, refreshing beverage. It does not get strained, so the sweet pulp of the squash and pineapple remains in the drink. If chilacayote is unavailable, substitute yellow […]

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Learning Spanish by immersion: Does it work?

Imagine a language course that starts off with the instructor giving a monologue that lasts all of sixty minutes, delivered almost entirely in Spanish. What our teacher, Hugo, gave us on that first day was a rundown, delivered at a normal conversational pace, on what we could expect in the next month. There were very […]

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The Reader’s Companion to Mexico

Cogan’s Reviews This is an odd volume. I originally bought it because it advertises itself as “a gathering of some of the best travel writing ever” about Mexico. However, you quickly find as you dip into it that not all the articles are about travel. Also, very few of them have been written in recent […]

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Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks

Cogan’s Reviews Here’s a rather unusual volume that certainly took me by surprise. It’s a book about, of all things, ferns. However, as you get into it you soon find out it’s about much more. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about ferns but I have to add that I read this book in one sitting […]

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Mexican Folk Art from Oaxacan Artist Families by Arden Aibel Rothstein and Anya Leah Rothstein

Cogan’s Reviews This month features a rather unusual volume. At first glance it appears to be one of those handsome coffee table books full of colorful photographs – and, in a way, there’s a very definite element of that about it. However, a closer look reveals that this is a volume with much, much more […]

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The Cooking School At Zihuatanejo by Daniel Kennedy

Cogan’s Reviews If you’ve ever entertained thoughts of opening a restaurant in a popular beach resort in Mexico, here’s the book for you. The story is related to us by Jeff Farrell who, with his wife, Mia, purchases a property high above the rooftops of Zijhuatanejo, overlooking the famed Playa de la Ropa beach with […]

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Reynaldo Vasquez Hernandez and his wife © Marvin West, 2011

Reynaldo in Mexico has handwoven Oaxaca rugs and more rugs

Reynaldo the Rugman has a problem. He and his relatives have made more rugs (beautiful colors, skillful weaving) than he can sell. Reynaldo Vasquez Hernandez is a fifth or sixth-generation artisan in spring, summer and autumn and a traveling salesman — representing the entire clan — in winter. Home base and workshops are outside Teotitlan […]

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The Isthmus: Stories from Mexico’s Past, 1495-1995

iUniverse, 2009 Available from www.amazon.com (Paperback) For years, I have been curious about “the isthmus,” or more formally “The Isthmus of Tehuantepec,” perhaps in part because Frida Kahlo loved so much the traditional clothing of this rarely visited section of southern Mexico, or perhaps because I love the Zapotec rugs that come out of those […]

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In a God’s Eye

In a God’s Eye By Elizabeth Kelly www.createspace.com, 2011 Available from Amazon Books: Paperback This book begins well but it does not end well. Our protagonist, now living in Cholula — “the oldest living city in the western world” — is a kindly old lady named Gina. She is a “good deal older” than her circle […]

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Lancandon Journal – 1969

Lancandon Journal — 1969 By Dimitar Krustev Editorial Mazatlan, 2013 Available from the publisher: Paperback Like most travel journals, Dimitar Krustev’s Lancandon Journal — 1969 lacks literary “finish.” Plebian in style it often just plods along; but, nevertheless, parts of it are certainly pleasurable. As in the unpolished letters we may have received in the past from some […]

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Let the Water Hold Me Down

Let the Water Hold Me Down By Michael Spurgeon Ad Lumen Press, American River College, 2013 Available from Amazon Books: Paperback Michael Spurgeon has written a remarkably fine novel. Let the Water Hold Me Down has the makings of a classic. It is written with skill and with grace, and the old verities that are at the […]

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Guelaguetza pageantry Photo by Geri Anderson

Oaxaca: what is it like?

Interactive map of Oaxaca What is it like in Oaxaca? It’s like no other place in all of Mexico. It is as close to a true mixture of the various Mexican cultures as can be found. Visitors to Oaxaca City will find a large number of Zapotec Indians, descendants of the great Zapotec Empire, which […]

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Oaxaca's zócalo, with facade of presidential palace in background, is a pleasant place to spend the afternoon. © Dan Ellsworth, 2009

Eight surprises from a senior year abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico

In college I fantasized about a junior year in Paris and, even after having children, I concocted schemes to move us all overseas. Only after the children left home, however, did I finally seize the day and talk my husband and myself into a “senior” year abroad. My husband took early retirement, and I left […]

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Visions of Chiapas © Emiliano Thibaut

Visions of Chiapas: A photographic essay

Photos of Zapatistas in Chiapas. For more about the Zapatistas, see Jim Tuck’s “Mexico’s Zapatista Movement – then and now” Published or Updated on: March 1, 2000 by Emiliano Thibaut © 2000  

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Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas

A tourist’s guide to Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas: A busy capital

Sometimes, due to business commitments or transportation snags, we find ourselves in a not-planned-for place. Tuxtla Gutierrez is thought of by many as such place. Indeed, most travelers in Mexico go “through,” not “to” this city, since it’s a transportation hub, not only for the state of Chiapas, but for most of the Mundo Maya […]

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A tourist’s guide to Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas: What, how and where?

Now that you’ve decided to visit Tuxtla Gutierrex, let me give you some information about the climate here and what type of clothing you will need to pack for your visit. The city of Tuxtla Gutierrez fills a long, low valley and is usually described in guide books as being terribly hot and humid. In […]

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Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas

A tourist’s guide to Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas: Three days of sightseeing

By now, I’m assuming you are finally here, settled into your hotel, refreshed and unpacked. Let’s begin our tour right away, because it will actually take more than three days to see and enjoy everything here. We will use taxis rather than colectivos to save time during your visit. After all, they are very affordable […]

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Midnight on the Isthmus: Returning home to Chiapas from Oaxaca

After an exciting week visiting a close friend, meeting new ones, and immersing myself fully in the rich cultural experience that is Oaxaca, I was headed home to celebrate Christmas with my family and friends in Chiapas. My husband was back in the States on business, so I had taken this special trip to Oaxaca […]

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Dancing with the Maya: Una fiestita in Copoya

You would think that by now, well into my third year of living in Chiapas, I would have learned that familiar U.S. customs — especially ones which make me feel as though I have slipped into a comfortable old bathrobe — do not always transfer gracefully into my new country. But without the benefit of an established […]

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All’s well in Copoya: Village life in modern Mexico

I have spent the early morning hours of this cool, beautiful summer morning surfing the Internet for international news and letters from friends in distant places. With my laptop clicking and whirring — and my modem giving me the occasional seductive wink — I make final revisions to a manuscript scheduled for publication on “Mexico […]

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Rebozos: Shawls for all seasons and reasons

Shawls for all seasons, rebozos for all reasons

We sit crushed together, moist and miserable, in the back of the battered old VW van as we do every day about this time. Interesting odors assail our noses. We would rather not know what it is we are smelling. The mid-afternoon heat is beyond depressing; it is defeating. Eleven of us wait to go […]

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Copoya, Chiapas

Vistas de Copoya, Chiapas

The day starts early here in Copoya. Hours before a bright pink sun rises over the eastern mountain, the roosters, pigs, and braying burros compete noisily with horn blowing little colectivos speeding down into the great mercados of the city, slowly awakening below. The much less exotic sounds of dogs barking and kids playing will soon follow. The bell in the […]

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Zapotec Funeral in Oaxaca

A Zapotec funeral, Oaxaca, Mexico

“Would you like to carry the casket?” I blinked vacantly, thinking perhaps the 104-degree heat was melting my brain-or maybe my shaky Spanish was failing me (that seemed more likely). “¿Como?” I asked, scarcely believing my ears. The young Zapotec Indian straining under the load motioned again to the small coffin. “Would you like to help carry […]

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Encruzados Processing

Silver, saints, and sinners™: Semana Santa in Taxco, Mexico

If you have heard of the picturesque, old colonial Mexican town of Taxco at all, you probably associate it with that precious metal so characteristic of Mexico – silver. If you had asked Cortés about Taxco almost 500 years ago, he would have made the same association. In fact, the silver and other minerals from […]

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Poking around the pueblos of Oaxaca: Vista Hermosa

Morning clouds hover lazily over the city as we finish our coffee in a zocalo cafe in Oaxaca. It’s as if the clouds, like my friend and I, aren’t in any hurry to move on. As we saunter the several blocks to the colectivo (shared taxi) stands, the city yawns and stretches. A few vendors are meticulously arranging products […]

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Looking up

El Arbol de Tule, the biggest tree in the world?

At over 2000 years old, El Arbol del Tule, which is actually an Ahuehuete Cypress, is among the oldest living trees in the world. With a 10 meter (33 feet) diameter trunk it is also considered by many to be the broadest tree in the world. The circumference of the trunk is an amazing 54 […]

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Oaxaca

Located in the southern part of the Mexican Republic, the state of Oaxaca is bordered on the north by the states of Puebla and Veracruz, to the east by Chiapas, to the west by Guerrero, and to the south by the Pacific Ocean, comprising 95,364 square kilometers. The great valleys of the state are located […]

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CUILAPAN Basilica - Cuilapan Monastery, Oaxaca © Photo by Tony Burton

A day in Oaxaca = Two thousand years: Monte Alban and the Zimatlan Valley

Part 1: The America’s Oldest Urban Center Having reached Monte Alban and entered the site, on your right as you stand at the corner of the main plaza is the North Platform, the site of the Zapotec king’s residence and the temples of the nobility. Wandering around the hillside behind the North Platform, you will […]

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CUILAPAN Basilica - Cuilapan Monastery, Oaxaca © Photo by Tony Burton

A day in Oaxaca = Two thousand years: The Americas’ oldest urban centre

The warm afternoon breeze wafts a gentle mist of dust across the floor of the Oaxaca valley and into Oaxaca city, softening the colonial patina of the richly carved, 300-year-old cathedral. The dust is two thousand years old, the dust of Monte Alban, the first major city in the Americas. Now a ghost city, Monte […]

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Facade of the Oaxaca Cathedral

Oaxaca, Mexico: a day in one of the New World’s finest cities

Given the long and illustrious history of Mexico, it is only fitting that just a few kilometers to the east of the oldest urban center in the Americas is one of the loveliest present-day cities in the Americas – the city of Oaxaca. All visitors to Mexico should consider Oaxaca (pronounced Wah-hah-cah) a “must-see”. Over […]

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Mitla Church

The Oaxaca Valley: A week’s adventures in a single day

Of all the thousands of possible day-trips from tourist centers in Mexico, perhaps none is as varied, educational, beautiful and just plain fun as that along the eastern part of the Valley of Oaxaca. One of the great attractions of this trip is that it is less than fifty kilometers drive along a good highway […]

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Palenque © Carson Brown

Ruins in the rain forest: An excursion to La Selva Lacandona

Many visitors in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, realize that the quaint mountain town, aside from being a destination in itself, is a perfect jumping-off point for dozens of side-trips. Surrounding indigenous villages, the Lagos de Montebello, and even Palenque, four hours away, are accessible for ambitious travelers. But not many tourists venture deeper […]

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Puerto Escondido

Hidden time revisited: Puerto Escondido

It was an evening to remember. The final chorus of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” bombarded the barren shore, the vocal crescendos punctuated by nature’s own rhythm section: the waves crashing on Zicatela beach. Off in the distance, scattered among the sand dunes of this world famous Mexican surfing “pipeline,” huge bonfires spewed Stygian sparks high […]

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The latest work by Maestro Rodolfo in the MACO contemporary art museum. This exhibit was still up on the day of his death. Photograph by Diana Ricci © 2001

Rodolfo Morales – Mexican artist (1925 – 2001)

Letters From Mexico In the seven years that I have lived in Oaxaca, I have often caught glimpses of the Maestro working in his studio; run into him at various cultural functions; and crossed his path on the street. His life and his works have had an affect on my life here, far greater than […]

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Combustión / Cumbustion

Mexican painter Gabriela Epstein: color, form and energy

What started as a hobby for painter Gabriela Epstein has grown into an essential part of her existence. “It’s everything to me,” she says, describing art as her profession and source of income, but also as something instinctual that serves as a form of therapy and channel of expression for her. Epstein started down the […]

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Leyendas e historias de Oaxaca: un hombre llamado Crecencio

Según cuentan las personas que viven en Teotitlán del Valle, Crecencio llegó a vivir a Teotitlán como un mozo* que ayudaba a criar ganado y animales domesticados en esta comunidad. Pasaron los años y el arduo trabajo de esa época obligaba a las personas a recolectar cáscaras de los árboles para curtir la piel. En […]

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Bunuelos con Miel de Piloncillo y Canela

En Oaxaca, rompen el plato para atraer la buena suerte después de comerlos, pero basta con servirlos con mucho jarabe de sabor canela. “Piloncillo” es el azúcar oscuro que se vende en conos. Le da un sabor profundo a muchos jarabes y dulces mexicanos que no se puede obtener con azúcar blanca. En los Estados […]

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Playa Panteón, San Angel

A trip to Puerto Angel, Oaxaca

The tourists at Zipolite were decidedly young although, there was a generous smattering of old hippies who seemed to be the more ardent practitioners of nudism. A massive mountain range known as the Sierra Madre del Sur (mother range of the south) isolates Oaxaca City from the Pacific coastline of Oaxaca State. To get from […]

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Published or Updated on August 18, 2020 by Tony Burton

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