10 Things to Do: Oaxaca, Mexico

By Guzmán, Gabriel | Americas Quarterly, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview
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10 Things to Do: Oaxaca, Mexico


Guzmán, Gabriel, Americas Quarterly


Located in southern Mexico, Oaxaca is a UNESCO World Heritage City. Its rich heritage includes Zapotec, Mixtec and Spanish cultures, and it's also an important landmark in Mexican history, established as a colonial city in 1532. The city is in Oaxaca state, where former president Benito Juárez, the great 19th-century liberal reformer and statesman, was born and raised. When he died in 1872, the city's official name was changed to Oaxaca de Juárez. -Gabriel Guzmán

1 Explore the Centro Histórico. Enjoy Oaxaca's laid-back atmosphere at the zócalo (center plaza) and andador turístico (tourist walkway), or on one of its colorful streets (pictured). The beautiful Santo Domingo Cultural Center is also located here. Admission is 57 pesos ($4.40). Closed on Mondays.

2Savor a tlayuda. The traditional tlayuda is one of Oaxacans' most popular dishes. Made of a large, slowly cooked corn tortilla, it can be messy but fun to eat. Try it at Las Tlayudas de Libres on Libres 212. Opens every day at 10 p.m.

3Visit Monte Albán. Founded between 500 and 100 B.C., Monte Albán was the center of Zapotec culture in the Oaxaca Valley until A.D. 1325. Its wellpreserved ruins are near the city and make an excellent day trip. At the top, you'll get a magnificent view of the Oaxaca Valley.

4Try some mezcal. This smoky, agavebased alcohol has its roots in Oaxaca. There are plenty of mezcalerías to choose from, but among the best are La Cucaracha (Porfirio Díaz 301A), where you can enjoy live music, and Café Central (Miguel Hidalgo 302).

5Taste Oaxaca's famous mole. Mole is a thick sauce made of spices, nuts, chilis, and chocolate.

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