Updated: Jul 25, 2020
Oaxaca is known for its authentic Mexican cuisine and is considered the cultural hub of México by many. I probably ate five different types of bugs over the three days we were there, of those I remember: grasshoppers, worms, and beetles.
Did you know México has over 35 million visitors per year? Tourism is one of its main sources of income.
I have been to Mexico a few different times in my life. I normally visit the touristy outskirts of the country, and those areas are certainly worth visiting for the lovely beaches! But those areas are highly influenced by the United States and in more touristy areas, there are people who speak English. What’s beautiful about braving the inner states of México, is that the culture has yet to be fully influenced by American ways and English. I was surprised by how few people spoke English, and it was refreshing. I loved the authentic feel in Oaxaca.
We befriended one of the servers at our hotel restaurant, and he offered to show us the surrounding area. This turned out to be one of the most memorable excursions of the trip because my mom decided to rent a car, and driving down there is, well... scary. My sister and I were on “topé” duty (topes are speed bumps). We drove an hour outside the city, and we had to travel over a highway that was littered with potholes and speed bumps, not to mention our rental car barely had headlights and we returned after dark. Imagine speeding along the highway at 65 mph in the dark and hitting a speed bump, followed up a pothole… “ T O P É ! ”
3 Things to See:
About an hour outside the city, we visited a mezcal farm in Matatlan. Matatlan is the mezcal capital of the world, and it is where mezcal originates. If you’ve never had mezcal, it tastes like tequila's ashy brother. Mezcal is known for its smokey barrel taste. Mezcal is made from a plant called maguey. It was fascinating to learn how they harvest thousands of plants for just a few bottles of mezcal! Out in the country where we were, the mezcal is still cut by hand with machetes and then cooked underground before being smushed by horse hooves and cooked until it evaporates into 90 proof alcohol.
We also visited Teotitlan, which is a small mountain town outside Oaxaca, known for its handmade rugs. It was incredible to see these small family businesses that worked sun up until sundown to make rugs by hand. My sister purchased a rug for her home, and it was about $150 US dollars. This rug was red, and the red color was made from squished up cactus bugs called “cochinilla.” All of the yarn used to make these rugs is hand spun. The rug Rachel bought was maybe 5’ x 4’ and took over a week to make!
Templo de Santa Domingo
We stayed in a beautiful hotel in the center of town called Quinta Real, which was an ex-convent. It was incredible to see how the nuns used to live in that space. There was a giant washroom in the center of the hotel, where you could see how nuns used to wash clothes from an overflowing fountain that poured out to 10 giant washbowls. Our hotel had underground tunnels that spidered all over the city, but most notably they went to the main church, Templo de Santa Domingo. My sister maintains that the tunnels were there so the nuns could do the priest's laundry. This church was built in 1608 and was filled with ornate gold furnishings. The roof featured murals from the new testament and Jesus was depicted in almost all of them. Many of the images were graphic, and showed bloody Jesus and beheaded people. We saw this gory imagery throughout churches in central México, it was always a bit shocking, but by the end, I was used to it. Every inch of this grand building was covered in some sort of art or furnishing.
Oaxaca is known for its food. I could have spent two weeks there in cooking classes and on food tours. My favorite meals were in Oaxaca. They are known for their famous grasshopper garnishes. I had fried up grasshoppers in my tequila, in my omelets, and in my quesadillas! I wasn’t crazy about the taste, honestly, they just cover them in salt and fry them so you can’t taste the guts… I also had the most incredible mole I’ve ever tasted at a restaurant called “Casa Oaxaca” right downtown by the zocaló.
México was a blast! And I look forward to my next adventure down there. Overall it was lovely, I felt safe, and it was cheap. My sister is down there working and paying $60 a month for rent. And we stayed at hotels for $150-$180 per night, so our hotels basically felt like mansions.
If you have questions about visiting México, I’d love to talk with you about my experiences. Rasmus and I are getting married in México next summer, and I'm really looking forward to México part 2!