Glass and Stonework
Glass manufacture, unknown in pre- Columbian times, was introduced by the Spanish. Today factories scattered all over Mexico turn out mountains of burbuja (boor-BOO-hah) bubbled-glass tumblers, goblets, plates, and pitchers, usually in blue, yellow, green, or red.
Artisans work stone, mostly near sources of supply. Puebla and Tequisistlán (in the Oaxaca isthmus) are Mexico’s main sources of decorative onyx (onix, OH-neeks). Factory shops turn out the galaxy of mostly roughhewn, cream-colored items, from animal charms and chess pieces to beads and desk sets, which you’ll see on some Oaxaca City curio shop shelves.
Cantera, a volcanic tufa stone, occurs in pastel shades from pink to green and is quarried in several locations in the Valley of Oaxaca. Most preferred is the light jade-green cantera from Magdalena Etla, northwest of Oaxaca City. It has replaced the original but exhausted green cantera source that supplied stone for most of Oaxaca City’s original buildings. An open-air cantera workshop, with many examples of expertly sculptured cantera (by Hwy. 190 in Suchilquitongo, at the Valley of Oaxaca’s northeast corner), welcomes visitors.
For a keepsake from a truly ancient Oaxacan tradition, don’t forget the hollowed-out stone metate (may-TAH-tay), or corn-grinding basin, and the three-legged molcajete (mohl-kah-HAY-tay), a mortar for grinding chilies. Most examples you’ll see in Oaxaca are from Teitipac, in the west valley near Tlacolula (where you’ll most likely see for-sale examples during the big Sunday market).
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition