Monthly Archives: February 2008

Bus and Other Transport to Teotitlan del Valle

There are three ways to get to Teotitlan: by bus, by collectivo and by private taxi. Each village has it’s own bus system which it contracts with the village leaders. The Teotitlan bus is colored bright yellow with orange contrasts. The best place to catch the bus is from CHEDRAUI. This is a shopping center not too far from the Zocalo. You can catch a taxi to get to Chedraui for a few pesos. It would be a long-ish walk. The bus runs every hour at the 1/4 hour … best to get there 20-30 minutes early because these times are approximate. The fare to Teotitlan is 10 pesos (about $1.00). The collectivos will also swing by this stop and the fares are a little bit more. They will circle the bus stops to pick up passengers until they are packed full — 4 in the backseat, sometimes 2 in the front seat. A private taxi will cost about $20-25 USD. The Teotitlan bus will take you right into the center of the village, but you can ask them to drop you off anywhere along Benito Juarez, the road into town. If you wanted to stop at Federico Chavez’s casita before entering the center of town, you would ask to be dropped off at Francisco I. Madero which crosses Benito Juarez. (There’s a yellow sign at the corner advertising Federico Chavez Santiago Family Weavers.  Continue down F.I. Madero to #55 in the last block and turn right down the alley into the courtyard. Phone: 52 44078) You can also hop a bus from Oaxaca to Tlacalula or Mitla. It will drop you off at the Crucero (the crossroads where Avenida Benito Juarez joins Pan American Highway 190). There are usually taxis or tuk-tuks waiting for these buses, and they will take you into town for 10 pesos. If there isn’t one there, it won’t be too long before one comes along!

The other option is to catch the same bus or collectivo at the Abastos Market where they originate, but it’s so confusing down there, a huge hubbub of people and cars and taxis and buses, that I prefer Chedraui. It’s just easier. Chedraui also has ATM machines, some fast food services, boutiques, and a supermarket. The other bus stop is near the ball stadium at the corner of Calle de Los Derechos Humanos and Boulevard Eduardo Vasconcelos on the main road leading into and out of town. It picks people up between 15-25 minutes after every hour from Monday through Saturday. This is the last main stop and by the time the bus gets there, there is usually standing room only.We love riding the bus. It will take about 45 minutes in either direction. The bus directly into Teotitlan does not operate on Sunday, but you can get the bus to Mitla and ask them to stop at the Crucero. Same routine: pick up a taxi or tuk-tuk into town.

The Teotitlan bus will go through Tule and stop to pick people up along the 190 Highway. Villagers go back and forth for doctors appointments, to their stalls in the markets, to school, and to visit with friends. They haul bags of food and flowers, rugs and baskets, books in backpacks. This is where I love people watching: the elderly women with their fancy braided pigtails and huge dangling 10K gold filagree earrings embellished with pearls or colored zircons or amethysts, and the school children in uniforms.

Cultural Preservation & Sustainable Tourism

The artists and artisans of Oaxaca depend upon tourism for their livelihood.  Now, almost two years after the APPO “troubles” tourists are beginning to come back to Oaxaca and that is very good. But there are still too few tourists and the economy is hard hit. The troubles hit the villages hard even though they were beyond the reach of political confrontation.  Many artisans have gone back to working the fields or have gone to other Mexican cities and El Norte to find work.  I know families who have moved away, left their homes empty, in search of work. As they put their artistic talents aside, the message sent to the children is that this livelihood may not be sustainable.  Children may begin to plan their own futures based upon these observations along with absorbing television and film messages of a better life somewhere else.  In the book, “The Unbroken Thread,” the authors talk about villages that are no longer weaving because the elderly craftspeople have died and with them, their extraordinarily beautiful work.  Do we have a responsibility to preserve this cultural heritage?  It is difficult in rural Mexico for most.  Talented workers earn about $15 USD per day.  Tourism will determine whether the artistic endeavors of individuals and villages survive, I believe.  And yet, we know that the impact of tourism can be devastating … creating a Disney-esque destination that loses its authenticity.  Indigenous people become actors on the stage of travel entertainment.  I raise this because each of us has a responsibility as we travel to Oaxaca or other destinations of treading lightly and leaving a small footprint.  I see tour buses full of elder hostel travelers, educated, with money to spend, interested in learning, and I know that they would be unlikely  travelers without this accommodation.  They benefit the local economies significantly.  Tour buses have influenced the construction of big houses on the highways where it is easier to pull in and unload a big group, bypassing other equally worthy weavers who live further down the road in the village, funneling the economic opportunities to those who can afford to build the big houses on the main road.  This phenomenon has happened in Teotitlan and it is now happening at in San Martin Tilcajete, where Jacobo Angeles has built a beautiful gallery on the road to Ocotlan that also represents work by talented colleagues from his village, too.  What is the more authentic experience?  What is most valuable to the people of a village and the sustainability of their culture?Not everyone has the ability or desire to travel independently and explore the back alleys of a foreign village where they don’t speak the language.  I don’t have answers.  I am only raising these questions for consideration.I want to say it again.  I want to shout it.  Traveling to Oaxaca is completely SAFE.  It is a wonderful international heritage city, a colonial gem.  It is at the crossroads of Mesoamerican history and culture.  It is the region where corn was first cultivated thousands of years ago — a gift to the world.  It is mountains, beach, desert and tropics.  I don’t want Oaxaca to become Cancun or Huatulco, but I do want tourists to go there because I want it to thrive.