The name Etla strictly refers to a county-size district northwest of Oaxaca City that contains a number of small towns (such as Soledad Etla, San Miguel Etla, and San Gabriel Etla) that cluster around the central hub town of San Pedro y San Pablo Etla, site of the famous Etla Wednesday market. Consequently, this is the place that most folks refer to simply as Etla (or sometimes Villa de Etla).
Although the Etla Wednesday market invariably has stalls overflowing with its celebrated “Oaxaca” (but more correctly “Etla”) cheese, vendors offer plenty of other old-fashioned merchandise. How would you like, for example, some fresh sheepskins, burro pack frames, green Atzompa pottery, or banana-leaf-wrapped red Oaxaca tamales?
The market’s main attraction, however, is the battalion of native country women offering mounds of carrots, forest-gathered herbs, nopal cactus leaves, onions, and much more.
For food, head to country-style comedor La Fonda (no phone, 8 a.m.–7 p.m. daily, $2–5), adjacent to the market’s east side. Elderly Señora Julia both cooks and directs a bustling cadre of helpers in serving up a wholesome menu of home-made breakfasts, sopas (soups), and guisados (stews), all served up with generous portions of rice and beans and steaming stacks of hand-made tortillas.
Alternatively, try Restaurant Chefy(8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, $3–8)for a wholesome, home-style breakfast or lunch, on the left side of the main street as you enter town from the highway.
Get to Etla much as you would get to El Mogote. Preferably arrive at the market by about 10 a.m. to allow time for visits to El Mogote and/or Suchilquitongo later. By bus from Oaxaca City, ride a Choferes del Sur Etla–marked bus from the camionera central segunda clase, or a colectivo from the north side of the camionera central segunda clase.
By car, head north along old libre Highway 190 about nine miles (15 km) from the center of Oaxaca City and turn left at the big green Etla highway sign. The market is the prominent light-yellow stone building, uphill from the rail station, about a quarter mile (0.4 km) from the highway.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition