Tag Archives: Sunday

Tlacolula Market Christmas Preview: Oaxaca Glitters

I grew up in Tinseltown. My memory is imprinted with pink, blue and white flocked Christmas trees for sale on pop-up corner lots along Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Glitter was not only reserved for Hollywood. Garlands of sparkling silver ropes and plastic poinsettias could make any California dream of snowmen come true even in sunny December.

Checking email, texting or whatever -- Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico

Checking email, texting or whatever — Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico

Little did we know that poinsettias, called nochebuena here, are native to Mexico, bloom in November and December, have become the North American symbol for Christmas. They are all over town.


Welcome to Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico, where traditional Mexican Christmas decorations of moss and bromeliads mingle with shiny stars, dangling bulbs, plastic farm animals and colored Christmas trees — a cross-cultural holiday morphing that points to the immigration back and forth across the border (sorry, Donald Trump).  And it’s sunny here, too. Sometimes downright hot in December.

Everything you’d ever need to decorate for Christmas

Evoking Frida Kahlo: Making Memory Altars and Shrines, February 25-28, 2016

So many of Mexican parentage are United States of American citizens and they come home to visit family this season. We can debate the impact of change and commercialism on the culture of indigenous Mexico and what the word authentic means.  People come back together after being separated and that in itself is good news.

Bromeliads from the Sierra Juarez, traditional decorations

(Don’t forget, Donald Trump, that Mexicans have lived in the United States for over 400 years, and that the southwest was stolen from Mexico in a trumped up war to gain territory.)


Poinsettias that are planted in tierra firma bloom here every holiday season — a natural part of the environment. So, there’s no excuse for fake here, although I see plenty of imported from China nochebuena flowers sticking out of vases on restaurant tabletops.

A 30-lb. turkey (or more) at 1,300 MXN pesos, led on a string

Those who can afford it will have turkey —  pavo,  guajolote — on their Christmas table.  This will  usually be dressed with mole negro or mole amarillo, depending on family tradition. There were plenty of live turkeys for sale on this Tlacolula market day, the last one before Christmas. The ladies were vying for customers.

The poultry sellers market, Tlacolula, Oaxaca

I could hardly get through the crowds, even at my usual 10:30 a.m. arrival time when typically there are fewer people. The crowds don’t usually come until after noon. But, the aisles were jammed with vendors, either stationary at tables or sitting on mats, or trying to move rolling carts from one spot to another.

Couple this with families out shopping for Christmas gifts and visitors from the city and you can imagine the skill required to negotiate the camino without tripping over someone or getting stepped on.

Fancy day-glow tennis shoes, a perfect Christmas gift

What I noticed most were a different variety of displays this time of year destined to become gifts: day-glow socks, lacy underwear, art work, fleecy hats, piles of oranges, embroidered little girl dresses and fancy tennis shoes.

Mamay fruit also known as Zapote Chico

Wall decor for holiday giving, some original, some reproductions

Plus, lots of fireworks for sale. Pyrotechnics are a big deal here and kids love shooting off firecrackers and spinners. Are they regulated? Heck, no.


Waiting in line for remittances, Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico

The line out in front of the money exchange was a block long all day long. People were waiting to collect the remittance dollar being sent from the U.S.A. by family members who are there working for the benefit of those at home.  Since the exchange rate is now over 17 MXN pesos to the dollar, this is a Christmas bonus for many in the Tlacolula Valley.

  Notice the Michigan Black Beans sign above. Wonder who picked them?

Tourists love it, too. This is an especially good time to go shopping in Mexico. I noticed the market had more than its share of gringo travelers. Let’s hope they left with some treasures and left their pesos behind.

Oil paintings and watercolors for sale on Tlacolula street

Oil paintings and watercolors for sale on Tlacolula street, kitsch folk art

Piñatas for Christmas? Yes, it’s someone’s birthday!

I am waiting for my  family to arrive this week for holiday celebrations. We are going on a Collectivo 1050 Degrados tour to Atzompa tomorrow, a mezcal tour next week, maybe a visit to Hierve el Agua and a stop in Mitla on the way back. It’ll be busy, but I’ll try to keep up with Oaxaca comings and goings.

Packed parking lot — first time in my memory here.






Sunday Tlacolula Market: Getting There, Being There

Every Sunday, with the exception of Easter, all the Teotitlan del Valle buses and collectivos go back and forth from the village to the tianguis at Tlacolula de Matamoros.  If you want to get from Oaxaca City to Teotitlan on a Sunday, that’s a different story (see below).


The regional street market draws thousands of sellers and shoppers from throughout the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.   It is a confusion of blue and green tarps that cover probably ten square blocks of the town center, a protection from sun and rain.  It is also a cacophony of stuff: farm tools, meats, vegetables, household staples, garden plants and tourist treasures.

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I’ve been to this market enough times to recognize the regulars. Among my favorites are the sellers of brightly colored plastic woven baskets, embroidered aprons, and dried hibiscus flowers that I use to make agua de jamaica (ha-my-kah).

Vendors haul their goods wrapped in the plastic tarps they will use to cover their stalls.  Most will use the public vehicles provided by their villages, all pointed to Tlacolula on Sunday.


It is wonderful to catch the bus at the corner of my street and join the pack. At 11 a.m. it’s hard to find a seat unless you get on at the village market origination point.  Today, my traveling companion is my eight-year-old niece Ixcel Guadalupe, who we call Lupita.  She is wearing her best Sunday-go-to-church-dress, adorned with the green felt flower we made together the day before.

Today, my shopping list is a pretty mundane: a bell for the front gate, a rope to hang it, a tightly woven bamboo basket with tray lid to adapt as a packing container for the gifts of mezcal bottles.  I’m always open to whatever else may present itself.

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I have in mind to get Lupe a smaller version of my shopping basket and perhaps a new apron.  First, we come across a costumed Pancho Villa selling art posters of the revolutionary army.  We look and move on.


What catches my eye is gorgeous black clay pottery that I recognize from the  village of San Bartolo de Coyotepec. But, these pots are different, more authentically rustic, with lots of interesting variegation in the clay.  My dad was a potter and I know pottery!  I ask the vendor about them.  As I suspected, he hand-makes these in the old waterproof style originally used for holding mezcal. Hand-polished. Beautiful.  I bought a large one for 400 pesos (that’s about $32 USD).  He invited me to come visit him.  I extend the invitation to you:

Leopoldo Barranco, Calle Galiana #3, San Bartolo de Coyotepec.  No phone. Leopoldo is home all day during the week, he says.  A lovely man, definitely worth supporting this ancient craft.  His pots are much more interesting, in my opinion, than the commercially produced pieces one sees all over town.


These tools (above) are all hand-forged.  The picks are incredibly sharp.  I bought two of the golden bells, and two stakes with rings that I am using to secure my roof-top laundry line.

DanceFeather_Aeromex-10After lunch at Comedor Mary (opposite church side-street on permanent market side) and wandering around, Lupita and I stop for ice cream at Neveria Rosita.  She has tuna (hot pink fruit of the nopal cactus) with lime sorbet.  I order chocolate and tuna.  (Both these places are clean and the food is excellent.)

By this time, I’m hauling the clay pot, the basket, the metal stakes, and bells.  She is carrying two aprons in her little basket.  I decide it’s easier and faster to take the Teotitlan collectivo back to the village.  The collectivo station is behind the Tlacolula Zocalo. Turn right, then left. Or ask anyone!


When we get home at 4 p.m., we are greeted by a herd of grazing toros in the field next door.  Now, it’s time to pack those bottles of mezcal!

Getting to Tlacolula from Teotitlan del Valle by bus:  All the village buses go to Tlacolula on Sundays.  They run about every 30 minutes starting early in the morning. Catch it either at the mercado or anywhere along Av. Benito Juarez. Cost is 7 pesos (under 10 cents) each way. Last bus leaving Tlacolula for Teotitlan is at 5 p.m.

The collectivos leave from the parking lot on Benito Juarez.  They go when they are filled with five people — two in front (plus driver) and three in the back.  Take the back seat if you get the chance.  Much more comfortable.  Cost is 5 pesos one way per person.

Getting to Teotitlan from Oaxaca on a Sunday:  You can take a private taxi that will bring you right into town to your particular destination for 250 pesos. For 10 pesos, catch a bus at the baseball stadium headed toward Tlacolula or Mitla.  Ask to get off at the Teotitlan crucero (crossroads).  Take a collectivo, or bus or moto-taxi from the crossroads into town.  Don’t pay more than 10 pesos for the moto!  The bus will cost 7 pesos and the collectivo 5 pesos.