Tag Archives: Tlacolula

Tlacolula Meanderings: Play, Parking Tickets and No Where In Particular

One of my favorite past-times is the Sunday Tlacolula market.  I never tire of it. There is always something new, different, another point-of-view. This week there were strange flowers that looked like lollipops, plus fuzzy rambutans for eating.


Last Sunday, I parked on the street not attending to the “no parking” sign, which I didn’t think included the spot where I had stationed La Tuga.  Afterall, it was exactly where I parked the week before! Then, Carol and I set out to cover the market from one end to the other.  It was early and for the first block, we trailed a duo carrying guacalotes intended for sale.

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Then, there were the petate basket weavers from San Juan Guelavia who make traditional mats that gringos use for floor coverings who vend in the church courtyard along with the sellers of sal de gusano.

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The Tlacolula market is a food, flower and people fest. There’s no telling what you will find. Including a flower vendor with a floral skirt.

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After returning to find a parking ticket the size of a legal sheet of paper, I hailed a huge pick-up truck with flashing lights, two official policemen in the front seat, to ask where to go to pay it and how much it would cost, only to be greeted by the driver with, Do you speak English?” in perfect English.  I would follow this civil servant anywhere.

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And I did, winding around the streets of Tlacolula to get to the first hidden-away office, where several officials inspected me, ushered me into the inner sanctum, where the chief, a woman, stamped the ticket and told me to go to the regional finance office to pay. They are closed on Sunday, so I had to return during the week.

I did. The line was short. The ticket cost 255 pesos, about $21 USD, and I learned my lesson. Park in an official parking garage!


On the day I paid the ticket, these guys were still cruising the street. Guess what? They waived. Me, too.

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.

Guest Blog: Tlacolula Market Chickens by Janet Andrews

Tlacolula Market Chickens by Janet Andrews*

Large orange feet and toe nails sticking straight up in the air –  rows of them –  pull me away from the other sights, sounds, and smells of the Tlacolula Market.  The four toes of each foot are spread wide just like Beth instructed us to do with our toes in yoga this morning.  Wouldn’t you know it, chickens just naturally spread their toes for stability and connectivity to the earth while I, at age 74, am just learning how important it is to be connected to the ground I walk on.

But why are the chicken’s feet so orange, I wonder? My guess is they are fed yellow corn, but it simply may be that the chickens produced for the United States market have their feet removed before I ever see them.  My culture has a nasty habit of trying to sanitize and separate people from the frequently hard-to-take realities of life.  Later, I learned that actually Oaxacans feed chickens a concentrated Marigold flower powder to enhance the color of their skin and egg yolks.

Looking down from the chicken’s feet I see they are lying on their backs on a table with their feet facing the aisle. So I am now staring into an empty body cavity that is clean of entrails.  Again our yoga practice comes flying into my mind  –  “let go of your vagina as though it would fall from you to the ground.”   Well, the chickens would get a high score for accomplishing that, although I doubt it was for the same purpose we have in yoga.

These Tlacolula chickens, like the ones I encounter at home, have their feathers cleanly plucked, leaving their skin speckled in shades of yellow, tan, and red. Peering into the body cavity I see red muscle, yellow fat, and white fascia, cartilage and bone.  All combined, these images allow me to believe my Corpse Pose, Savasana, is a lot more relaxing than the chicken’s.


Market Chickens, photo by Janet Andrews

*Janet Andrews is from Tucson, Arizona, and participated in our 2013 Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat.  She came with the intention of writing more about her family history, which she did.  She also gave us this witty take on her experience at the Tlacolula Market.




Sunday Tlacolula Market for Women’s Creative Writing Group

We include a trip to the Sunday Tlacolula market outside the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, as an integral part of the creative writing experience at our annual women’s writing and yoga retreat held in early spring each year.  Why?  Because the market stimulates the senses and gives participants triggers from which to jump off into writing about their own lives and experiences.  It’s a great way to enjoy the local culture and see how locals go about about shopping for food, household items, and the necessities of daily life in contrast to our own.

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Tlacolula de Matamoros, as it is properly called, is a ten minute bus ride from Teotitlan del Valle where our workshop is based.  It is the commercial and political hub for the region.  All the Teotitlan buses go there on market day, making numerous round trips up until about four o’clock in the afternoon.

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Villagers from throughout the Tlacolula valley congregate in Tlacolula, arriving by private car, taxi, collectivo or community-operated bus.  You can identify the villages people come from by the style of clothing they wear, plus the names on and colors of the vehicles that bring them. 

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It was only a few minutes after we got to the corner that the bus came to pick us up.  It was already packed, standing room only, because we didn’t get on where the bus originates at the church, so the nine of us squeezed in and clung the the overhead railing. The ride was seven pesos per person.  That’s about five cents.

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One of my favorite stopping off points is Tlacolula’s Chocolate la Tradicion chocolate maker.  The shop is on the right side of the street about three blocks from the bus station as you walk toward the church.  Here, they combine roasted cacao beans, cinnamon, almonds and sugar, then put it through a grinder to make mole.  Usually families have their own recipes and the molina will prepare the blend exactly to family specifications.  Yummy.  They sell the prepared chocolate along with the famous Oaxaca handmade wooden frothers and all hot chocolate drinking accoutrements — a Oaxacan ritual staple.  When you visit, dance to the music and tell them I sent you!

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Here, everything is fresh and available in the cacophony of street vendor frenzy.   The aisles go on for city blocks and are actually cordoned streets covered with plastic awnings, lined with a hodge-podge of sellers.  They sell from tables piled high with butchered chicken or fresh fruit or kitchenware or spices or recycled clothing or hardware or field plows.  They sell from rolling carts and backpacks.  They sell from bicycles and tarps spread on the asphalt.  Whatever you need to eat or replenish for your household is available here.

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This is also a tourist mecca.  There is always something to bring home as a useful remembrance: a fine handwoven bamboo basket, painted gourd bowls, colorful cotton shawl with delicately macrame tied fringes, a floral patterned apron, an embroidered blouse, or a high quality tablecloth and napkins.

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Take a rest and have lunch at Comedor Mary on the block that borders the far side of the church.  Run out of pesos?  Stop in the Banamex ATM on the street where the Teotitlan vendors sell their rugs.

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I always pinpoint the church courtyard as a meeting place just in case we get separated.  This time, having a local cell phone really came in handy because the market is definitely big enough to get lost in, especially for first-timers.

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My favorite things to shop for at the Tlacolula market are:

  1. handwoven cotton or nylon hammocks–made locally
  2. red clay pottery from the village of San Marcos
  3. glorious, wildly embroidered floral gingham aprons
  4. finely woven bamboo baskets with palm leaf handles
  5. chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla — all from Mexico
  6. tablecloths and napkins from Mitla
  7. a silk (really rayon) ikat rebozo (shawl) with a fabulous punta (macrame fringe)
  8. and lots of photographs!

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Tlacolula Shopping List: Oaxaca’s Sunday Market

The Sunday Tlacolula regional tianguis (indigenous market) is where locals go to buy everything imaginable: furniture, cookware, light bulbs, plants, vegetables, fruits, meats, rebozos, live animals, jewelry, aprons, CDs and DVDs, clothing and plumbing supplies, just to list a few!

Portable stalls, covered with blue plastic tarp, line the streets for blocks on end.  Interspersed are some interesting tourist collectibles: finely woven baskets, lacquered gourds, Mitla tablecloths, embroidered blouses, carved wood figures, fancy shawls, and more.

I love Tlacolula.  The colorful indigenous dress, women carrying babes to their breasts wrapped in shawls securely tied around their necks and midriffs, wheelbarrows filled with honey dripping from hives, pushcarts with piles of fresh strawberries and guayaba so ripe that the air is like breathing a smoothie.  Men pull goats by coarse ropes.  Old women cradle turkeys under their arms.  Hawkers call out the daily specials at improvised street cafes where rotisserie chicken spins as diners eat at makeshift tables.

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This Sunday I had a shopping list.  No tourist dawdling for me.

I started out late, hopped on a 3 p.m. bus from Teotitlan del Valle (TDV) to Tlacolula.  The 10-minute ride is 7 pesos (that’s about 50 cents).  On Sundays, that’s the only destination for the TDV bus that makes numerous round trips all day ending with the last one returning at 3:30 p.m..

Tlacolula Shopping List:

  1. Clothes hangers.  The basic necessities are not what tourists are looking for, but Tlacolula has everything. 10 for 25  pesos.
  2. Oil cloth. This is not for the dining room table! I lit upon this solution to cover a window to keep the light out. Hopefully making for better sleeping.  2 meters for 60 pesos.
  3. Masking tape and picture wire.  The tape to hang the oilcloth and the picture wire to hang a beautiful clay sirena (mermaid) wall plaque I bought in Santa Maria Atzompa last week.  The potter made the platter with only one hole (a mistake) so no way to thread a wire to hang.  So I found a button at the market, too. (My plan, fit the button into the hole, thread the wire through the button holes, hang–it worked.) Tape and wire at the hardware store for 35 pesos.  Button from a street vendor for one peso.
  4. Hand-woven petate floor mat. Not on my shopping list, but who could resist the woman sitting on the curb weaving these mats from palm fronds. Indigenous people slept on these. Now, they make a perfect natural floor covering.  A steal at 40 pesos.                                         

La Dueña de Comedor Mary

5.  Late lunch at Comedor Mary. The most delicious food in the cleanest restaurant you’ve ever seen – anywhere.  I could write a whole post about Comedor Mary. Located on the street between the church and the permanent market. Chicken soup, chile relleno, accompanying plate of avocado, radishes, guaje, with a Coke Light for 90 pesos.


By the time I left the market, the TDV buses were kaput (last return trip at 3:30 p.m.).  So I walked to the Tlacolula crucero (crossroads) and picked up a collectivo (10 pesos) that dropped me off at the TDV crucero.  I sat next to the cutest 2-year old with her mom in the back seat and we made goo-goo eyes.  From there, I took a local collectivo (5 pesos each and sharing the cab with 6 people, 3 adult men in the front seat) into town.  My bundles went into the trunk, fortunately.   From there I walked home.

Overall, a great day I’d say.  Shopping list accomplished.