Coming from the small coastal town of Puerta Arista, where after three days the locals know you by name, the city of Oaxaca is a big change.
The streets are lively and lined with shops and vendors, mainly of jewelry and local food delicacies. The streets are wider and busier here compared to the smaller cobble stone streets of San Cristobal and the indigenous population is drastically less within the city center and it took until mid-afternoon before I was able to clearly identify numerous of the traditional dress of the indigenous peoples within Oaxaca.
There are barely any street dogs, although the piles of garbage that clog some streets take their place by the double. Everything here seems to be that much more modern than the other cities we have spent time in while in Mexico. The grove of the city seems to follow the beat of the north much closer than that of the southern state of Chiapas.
There is definitely more wealth within the city of Oaxaca, or perhaps we have just not traveled far enough outside. The majority of children are running around in clean clothes playing with one another or chewing on their treats purchased from the Zocalo. The military presence is drastically lower as well, in fact we have seen many police but have yet to come across clearly identified military. And people seem to be in much of a hurry, even for an early Saturday.
We spent numerous hours walking through one of the largest street markets I’ve ever visited, with the possibility of getting lost quite high and the odds of being hit by a bicycle or cart vendor even more likely, in fact almost guaranteed to happen numerous times within your first ten visits, or at least until you’ve realized these aisles are just as hectic and temptingly dangerous as the streets outside.
The market was filled with jewelry, clothing, shoes, electronics, burnt CD’s and DVD’s, hand-made furniture, hair and makeup accessories, fresh fruits, vegetables and poultries, including fresh chicken with feet, heads and hearts remaining but the most breathtaking of all items within the market were the handmade and hand-painted pottery. Specific to the area, the majority of the pottery had a green cover to it due to the way it is heated. Some had hand-painted flowers or designs with numerous representations. Some of the pottery was small and included things such as mugs and ashtrays and others were so large you could fit a small child in them, although not the purpose. As I walked through the market looking over the unique and beautiful artisan work, I couldn’t help pick out the items for my ‘ideal dream house’ which would be filled with all native art, design and colour of Mexico and built within one of the many green valleys the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca or Morelos has to offer.
Although the city is beautiful, it may be a little too close to home and reminds me of many European cities, with many people responding and discussing in English around us, with almost all luxuries within the city center geared toward the wealthy tourists. Many things are double the cost they would have been in Chiapas and many of the visual aesthetics remind me more of the colonial Spaniards than traditional Mexico. Although it is a beautiful twist of both, we are going to spend the next few days taking day-trips to visiting communities and will return just in time for the famous reputation of Oaxaca dishes.