For 20 miles (32 km) west of Jamiltepec , Highway 200 stretches through the coastal Mixtec heartland, intriguing to explore, especially during festival times. The population of San Andres Huaxpáltepec (oo-wash-PAHL-tay-payk), about 10 miles east of Pinotepa , sometimes swells from about 4,000 to 20,000 or more during the three or four days before the day of Jesus the Nazarene, on the fourth Friday of Lent (or in other words, the fourth Friday after Ash Wednesday).
The entire town spreads into a warren of shady stalls, offering everything from TVs to stone metates. The purchase of a corn-grinding metate, which, including mano stone roller, sells for about $25, is as important to a Mixtec family as a refrigerator is to an American family. A Mixtec husband and wife usually examine several of the concave stones, deliberating the pros and cons of each before deciding.
The Huaxpáltepec Nazarene fair is typical of the larger Oaxaca country expositions. Even the highway becomes a lineup of stalls; whole native clans camp under the trees, and mules, cows, and horses wait patiently around the edges of a grassy trading lot as men discuss prices. (The fun begins when a sale is made, and the new owner tries to rope and harness his bargain steed.)