26th July 2011

After an overnight on the comfortable ADO bus we arrived in Oaxaca [13] to spend a week in a cute little apartment owned by William and Nora on a cobbled street just outside the historic centre. Nora gives cooking classes (Alma de Mi Tierra) in Oaxaca cuisine in her home kitchen. After a visit to a local market to buy ingredients, we made a four course meal including starter, soup, mole, and a sweet tamale for desert. The best part was tasting the finished meal!


The city is another colonial treasure with more than 23 churches and ex convents to visit. The main square, or Zócalo, is always full of vendors, locals and tourists, and a good place to people watch. Oaxaca State is famous for its rich and complex moles (sauces) containing up to 30 ingredients painstakingly brought together. We set out to try as many as we could. A black smoky sauce made from chillies, chocolate nuts, seeds, spices and many other ingredients is the most common but they could be green, yellow or red, even one called a tablecloth stainer.


We stayed on for the annual Guelaguetza, a traditional folk dance festival by people from the surrounding area. The hilltop stadium holds 10,000 people and there was a near riot in line B as people pushed and shoved to get in first; the police had to step in. With the music, costumes and dance together with the crowd participation, it was a truly emotional experience. After each performance the group threw gifts, including whole pineapples, to the audience. Click here for a short video.


Oaxaca Cathedral began in 1553 but finished in the 18th century

The red bell tower of San Juan de Dios Church

Carved front of Saint Augustine Church

Oaxaca street

Ladies making breakfast in the street

Trilogy of moles - famous rich sauces of Oaxaca

Tlyuda - huge taco that overhangs the plate


Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Solidad, Patrona of Oaxaca

Barefoot lady selling roses outside the Basilica

Church and Convent of San Jose, founded 1595 by the Jesuits

Grilled corn with lime and chilli sold on the streets

Seeds and spices for sale in a market

Fried spicy green chillies stuffed with shredded chicken

Oaxaca is the centre for Mezcal

Cooking class with Nora - making tamales

Some of the ingredients for mole estofado

Stuffed squash flowers with a smoky, spicy sauce using maguey worms

Iglesia de Santo Domingo, built between 1570 and 1608

Ornate ceiling inside the Santo Domingo Church

Church from the attached Convento

Domed roofs of the Church

Original mural showing Dominican Friars

Iglesia la Sangre de Cristo

Large figures paraded through the streets signal the start of a fiesta ...

... Guelaguetza has begun!

The crowd cheers

Throwing gifts of straw hats to the crowd after the performance

Yellow and green moles for our final meal in Oaxaca