Regions and States

Oaxaca crestThe state of Oaxaca is part of the Southern Mexico Region, along with the states of Chiapas and Guerrero. It is Mexico’s fifth largest state in land area (93,793 square kilometers) and tenth most populous state (about 4 million inhabitants),

The state has an extraordinary variety of landscapes, climates and natural vegetation, ranging from high mountains ranges to 570 kilometers of shoreline bordering the Pacific Ocean. It is also a diverse state in terms of population with a large number of indigenous peoples and languages. This has given the state a rich cultural heritage, visible in the amazing variety and creativity of its seasonal celebrations, art and handcrafts.

The central valley of Oaxaca, where the state capital (Oaxaca City) is located, is an important area for tourism as are three towns on the coast—Puerto Angel, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco.

Here are select articles and recipes related to Oaxaca:


Limestone carving, 63 X 43 cm, sculptor unknown. © Alvin Starkman, 2024

Why is Mezcal so important to the future of Oaxaca?

Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D. Last year I participated in a panel discussion in Oaxaca about a new book entitled La E del Mezcal: Exportación, by Dra. Blanca Esther Salvador Martínez. While the other panelists essentially praised the author for writing such an important book and explained how it thoroughly covered all the bases regarding the […]

Ivonne Kennedy.

Ivonne Kennedy: Oaxacan painter with international sensibility

Don’t let the name fool you, Ivonne Kennedy is a genuine Oaxacan painter—but on her own terms. Kennedy was born in 1971 in the city of Oaxaca. While ‘foreign’ last names are not terribly uncommon in Mexico, they are pretty rare in Oaxaca, and ‘foreign’ first names even more so. So, quickly, before we get […]

San José delPacífico (Creative Commons -CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Great Magic Mushroom Hunt in Oaxaca

Giovanni strode across the courtyard of the hostel with a glint of excitement flashing in eyes that until then had only gazed placidly. Onto the table at which I had been lazily drinking another coffee, he unfolded a large detailed map of Mexico. It was a much larger and more detailed map than the ones […]

Mermaid by Teodora Blanco Nuñez. Photo: Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art

Women potters lead the way in Oaxaca

A great deal of Oaxaca’s charm is the appearance of a timeless culture, even in the face of sprawling modernization. Its strong handcraft tradition reinforces this notion, and at first glance, it looks like all is done just like it was a hundred years ago. But there has been important innovation, with a number of […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]


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 […]


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 […]

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 […]

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 […]


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 […]


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, […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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. […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]

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 […]

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 See, also: Part 1 Pre-hispanic Era Part 3 Modern 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. […]

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 […]

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 […]


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 […]

Scorpion Mezcal barrels


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


Central Valley of Oaxaca: Oaxaca city, Monte Alban

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

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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]

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 […]


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. […]


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 […]


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 […]

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 […]


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 […]

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 […]

1 comment

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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]

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 […]


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

iUniverse, 2009 Available from amazon.com (In Hardcover and 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 […]


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 […]

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 […]

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 […]


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 […]

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 […]


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 […]

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 […]



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 […]

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 […]

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

Monte Alban: The Americas’ oldest urban center

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]


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 […]


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 […]

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 […]


Fritters with Brown Sugar Syrup: Bunuelos con Miel de Piloncillo y Canela

You don’t have to break the dish for good luck after eating these, as is done in Oaxaca. Just serve them with plenty of the cinnamon flavored syrup. Piloncillo is the dark brown sugar, sold in cones, that gives many Mexican syrups and candies a depth of flavor not achieved with white sugar. North of the border […]


Did You Know? Blacks outnumbered Spaniards until after 1810

By common consent, the history of blacks in Mexico is a long one. The first black slave to set foot in Mexico is thought to have been Juan Cortés. He accompanied the conquistadors in 1519. It has been claimed that some natives thought he must be a god, since they had never seen a black […]

Waiting for the crowds, umbrellas frame a popular snorkling location at Tenacatita on Mexico's Pacific coast. © Gerry Soroka, 2009

Mexico’s endless Pacific beach: sun, surf, sand, seafood and solitude

Tomorrow’s champions are at work here, at Bahía de Navidad. In the hot afternoons along the wave-thumped beach of Melaque, lithe brown bodies dash along the alternately stirred and subdued sand and launch themselves at the sea. The steady winter sun descends in its unwavering plunge into a horizon washed faithfully by varying hues of […]

Oaxaca wind farm

Tehuantepec: Hold on to your sombrero

The tehuano endlessly blows where North America stops. The tehuano, the unforgiving forever wind of the Isthmus of Tehauntepec, ceaselessly scours a path through the wide gap where the continent of North America ends and Central America starts. We entered this maelstrom upon leaving Highway 200 and departing the State of Oaxaca on one of our journeys to […]

Image of the Virgin of Guadalupe © Tara Lowry, 2014

December in Oaxaca

In December in Oaxaca there’s a fiesta almost every day, which makes this colonial city one of the most popular holiday destinations for both foreigners and Mexicans. We describe below the main celebrations. For details on other events which are sure to pop up, check with the tourist office at García Vigíl and Independencia across from the […]

Intricate geometric motifs come to life on a warp of red, black and purple as a skilled weaver works on the backstrap loom. She is a member of the Tixinda women's cooperative in Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca. © Geri Anderson, 2011

Looms, weavers and the sacred snail on Mexico’s Costa Chica

“Don Luis, aquí. Aquí, Don Luis,” yelled a group of white-shirted men. They were calling for passengers in the camionera central in Pinotepa Nacional near the border of Oaxaca and Guerrero. We had dodged taxis, buses, minivans and pickup trucks in our search for the sitio Pinotepa de Don Luis. And now several animated drivers yelled and waved us […]

Employee at a Oaxaca hotel © Alvin Starkman, 2009

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

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 […]


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

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 Oaxaca and in parts of the central valleys. Until then, rules of the road for driving in Oaxaca were on the books, but […]

Magical Nude by Enrique Flores

Enrique Flores: Philanthropic Oaxaca artist has the golden touch

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 […]

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

Mexico’s Mezcal Monkey: collectible ceramic folk art from Oaxaca

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 […]

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. © Alvin Starkman, 2011

The Oaxaca Lending Library and Community Center

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. The library supports and sponsors various […]


Medical and dental treatment and coverage in Oaxaca

When I first gave up the practice of law in Toronto in favor of early retirement in Oaxaca, I assumed that the years I would add to my life by leading a much more stress-free existence in Mexico, would be lost by the inferior health care system to which I would be exposed, subjected and […]

Lavish hand embroidery covers a traditional Mexican wedding dress by Oaxaca artisan Faustina Sumano Garcia. © Arden Aibel Rothstein and Anya Leah Rothstein, 2007

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

Aficionados of folk art of the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico are already familiar with Arden Aibel Rothstein and Anya Leah Rothstein’s Mexican Folk Art From Oaxacan Artist Families. It was surprising to learn, however, that some people with an interest in the crafts of Oaxaca’s central valleys, are not even aware of this seminal work […]

Original art by Fiona Dunnett who makes her home in Oaxaca. © Fiona Dunnett, Alvin Starkman, 2009

Fiona Dunnett: images of self and death in Oaxaca

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 creative energies of artist Fiona Dunnett, a resident of Oaxaca, Mexico. Ottawa-born Dunnett has been living in Oaxaca since 2005. As in the […]

The women of San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca, shape their clay pottery by hand. © Alvin Starkman, 2010

Women potters of San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca

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 sister-in-law Maria and Maria’s daughter Luci follow suit, but in preparation for their own day of vending pre-Hispanic-style figures and masks, comales, and an […]

Megan Glore is coordinator of promotion and fundraising for CORAL, a charity in Oaxaca, Mexico to assist the deaf and hearing impaired. © Alvin Starkman, 2010

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

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 such sports paraphernalia. They’d read this writer’s article about the opportunity to help Oaxacans in need by filling an empty suitcase — earmarked for packing Oaxaca handicrafts […]

A graduate in Fine ARts, Angy works on a drawing at her tattoo parlor in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her partners look on. © Alvin Starkman, 2011

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

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 […]

Chef Pilar Cabrera's Casa de los Sabores Oaxaca cooking school is organized, with ingredients for each recipe contained in a separate large, colorful basket. © Alvin Starkman, 2011

Children’s cooking classes at Mexico’s Casa de los Sabores in Oaxaca

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 safety and hygiene, composting and recycling, and nutrition, all in a three-hour session. And at the same time, lead instructor Ninfa Raigosa infused […]

Colorful Mexican weavings and textiles in the Oaxaca market of Santo Tomas. © Alvin Starkman, 2011

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

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 Guelaguetza are a uniquely Oaxacan Christmas festivity. Celebrated on December 22 and 23, 2011, the event invites tourists and residents to participate in a variety of cultural experiences. Beginning at […]


Mexico’s Scorpion Mezcal empowers Oaxaca women

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 purchaser in Infonavit, Mexico’s government-sponsored home ownership program, which provides low interest mortgages in designated housing developments. French then […]

Gloria kneads the ground ingredients for tejate a final time at the market before ading the water to create a beverage. © Alvin Starkman, 2012

Tejate: Drink of Aztec rulers and Zapotec gods

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 Oaxacan marketplace and enjoying a half jícara gourd of tejate, you’re likely treating yourself to the same carefully crafted beverage, made with virtually […]


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

Part One details the drive from Oaxaca City to San Cristobal de las Casas. Interactive Map of Chiapas Although along the basically good, two-lane highways descending from San Cristóbal to Palenque there are several homes and businesses offering gasoline for sale, and at Ocosingo you’ll find gas stations, it’s best to fill up as you leave San […]

Street scene in Copoya, Chiapas

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

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 […]


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

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 characterized […]


Consumer protection in Oaxaca, Mexico: A case study

The Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor (PROFECO), Mexico’s Federal Office of Fair Trading, is the closest you can get to an American or Canadian style government administered consumer protection bureau and mediation facility. Its Oaxaca regional office is run in a relatively swift and efficient manner, meaning that it is extremely user friendly from the perspective […]


Traveling light to Oaxaca?

First-time travelers to Oaxaca, as well as return visitors and snowbirds, can all help to improve the financial lot of many struggling residents, aside from simply visiting the city and spending. It’s a fact that tourism has indeed returned to the central valleys of the state of Oaxaca. But as a result of the US […]


Moving Here Permanently?

Transporting your worldly possessions into Mexico is both an art and a science, even more so if you intend to do so on your own… truck and all. Then the task also becomes a challenge and an adventure. No matter what the Canadian or American Consul in Oaxaca advises, and regardless of the steps the […]


A connoisseur’s guide to mezcal

Think of mezcal as you would a single malt scotch, or better yet when comparing red wines of different vintages from the regions of France. Or perhaps grape varietals from the diversity of valleys and coastal areas in Australia. Forget about the worm for the time being, and forever the reputation with the college crowd […]


Stormy Weather: Rainy Season In Oaxaca

It’s the impact that the storms have on electricity that is stunning, both while the skies are thundering and for perhaps 12 hours after the last bolt of lightning has illuminated the cerros. From May until well past summer’s end, Oaxaca can be subject to extreme weather patterns. While we’ve all experienced torrential downpours and damaging […]


BBQ Goat In Oaxaca: The Pomp, Ceremony And Tradition

Some say it’s one of the oldest professions in Oaxaca, yet it garners little if any respect from most of the population notwithstanding the tradition and ceremony that has been its trademark for generations: the chivero, or slayer and preparer of goat, and its barbequing in-ground oven. There are a number of caprine cattle that are cooked […]



Share This:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *