Treasures of Old Mexico
Oaxaca preserves a wealth of tradition in its museums, galleries, festivals, historic churches, pilgrimage shrines, and archaeological sites. You can also find Oaxacan culture alive today in its shops and native markets.
Along your city route, be sure to include the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca and its neighboring Iglesia de Santo Domingo. Of the churches, don’t miss the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad and the Catedral de Oaxaca, with its legendary Santa Cruz de Huatulco (Holy Cross of Huatulco).
Oaxaca City overflows with handicrafts. Stroll along the Andador Macedonio Alcalá to visit the finest source shops, such as the first-rate, female-operated MARO (Mujeres Artesanías de las Regiones de Oaxaca) on Calle Cinco de Mayo, a block south of Alcalá, and other shops like La Mano Mágico (masks and textiles), Oro de Monte Albán (gold jewelry).
The Valley of Oaxaca
Three very worthwhile community museums welcome visitors in Teotitlán del Valle, Santa Ana del Valle, and San José El Mogote. Along the way, don’t miss the beautifully restored, lovely 16th-century churches in Tlacolula and Ocotlán.
Make certain to visit the monumental ruins, unmissable at Mitla and Monte Albán. The sites at Yagul and Lambityeco on the east side, and San José El Mogote and Suchilquitongo on the west side are also worthwhile if you have the time.
Go to the source in the celebrated handicrafts villages of Teotitlán del Valle (for wool weavings), San Bartolo Coyotepec (for black pottery), San Martin Tilcajete and Arrazola (for carved wooden animals), San Antonino Castillo Velasco (for embroidered blouses and dresses), and Atzompa (for pottery).
The Oaxaca Pacific’s unmissable museum is the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga (Turtle Museum) in Mazunte. The most interesting churches to visit are (moving east to west) at Santa María de Huatulco (with its mysterious Santa Cruz de Huatulco) and the pair of beloved pilgrimage shrines, the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Juquila and the Capilla del Pedimento, at Santa Catarina Juquila.
Most of the Oaxaca Pacific’s handicrafts are made on the west-side Mixtec coast. Primary are masks (in Huazolotitlán and Pinotepa Don Luis), pozahuancos (indigenous Mixtec wraparound skirts) in Pinotepa Nacional and vicinity, and the embroidered huipiles sold at San Pedro Amusgos.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition