Monthly Archives: August 2009

Oaxaca #1 Travel Destination for Families With Children

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) – Many cities can be overwhelming for young travelers, but some are as much fun for the kids as the grown-ups.

Lonely Planet’s “Travel With Children” guide lists the top 10 cities around the world that are ideal to visit with children. This list is not endorsed by Reuters:


This colorful Mexican city is pint-sized, charming and fun to explore on foot. A central plaza provides plenty of run-around space for kids and there’s a vibrant market.

For the rest of the Top 10 list, click on the link.

There still seems to be the erroneous impression “out there” in the world that Mexico may not be a safe enough travel destination.  I bring this up because Oaxaca, Mexico is cited here by Lonely Planet as being a top travel destination for families with children.  I can’t imagine that this recommendation would be made IF there was a concern about safety!

Day of the Dead: Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead, a celebration and festival of relatives who have passed on, is sacred and joyous in Oaxaca as in other parts of Mexico.  I am returning to Oaxaca for “Muertos” as the locals call it, arriving on October 28.

Muertos Countdown

October 31

Our family friend, Janet Chavez Santiago, tells us that we don’t want to miss being with them in the village of Teotitlan del Valle on October 31.  This is when the Zapotec villagers to to the local market to buy the fruits and special bread for the altar that is part of each family’s home.  Her brother Eric tells me that this market day in Teotitlan del Valle is one of the largest and most abundant of the year.

November 1

Mexicans believe that the souls of all their dead relatives will arrive in the altar room of their houses at 3:00 p.m.  So, the family gathers there, each tamales together, light candles and welcome the spiritual return of their loved ones.  At 5:00 p.m. after the special comida, the practice is to visit the houses of their relatives to pay respects to the souls of the extended family members who have passed.  Janet says that many family visitors come to their house, too, bringing gifts for the altar that include some of the favorite foods of the dead.

November 2

Everyone stays home to rest, to visit more, and to be with the spirits of the ded relatives.  At 3:00 p.m. the souls return to the cemetery and there is a family procession to the graveyards to be with the souls as they re-enter the graves.

Juchitan Huipil and Falda: New Hand-Embroidered Blouse + Skirt

Someone said to me, How many of these did you buy?!!!

One too many, I answered!

So, I’m offering this outfit for sale.  Contact me if you’d like to have it as a very comfortable and beautiful addition to your wardrobe.

Lovely, brand-new, never worn tomato-red polka dot cotton skirt and blouse (falda and huipil) hand sewn and embroidered from Juchitan, on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. The famous women of Tehuantepec (Tehuanas) are known throughout Oaxaca for their extraordinary needlework and brightly colored floral blouses. The blouse is lined, intricately hand-embroidered with an abundance of flowers in traditional Tehuana design. The skirt is gathered at the waist, has a tie waist band with slit to easily slip over your head, making it adjustable for one size fits all. There is a subtle ruffle detail along the hemline. The waist band can wrap around double to fit a smaller size or open up so that it easily fits a size 16-18. The blouse, likewise, can fit a size 10-18, by opening up the side seams and making it smaller. Right now, it will easily fit a size 14-16. I bought four of these beautiful outfits and decided that I have one too many! I travel to Oaxaca regularly but rarely get to Juchitan because it is a 6-hour trip by car through a two-lane winding mountain road. So, these extraordinary outfits are not easy to come by! The others I have are so comfortable and graceful that I am wearing them to my office. Thank you.

Honey Do 4th of July Wins Chatham Poetry Contest

What, you may ask, does this have to do with Oaxaca?  Nothing, except that I wrote it and submitted it to our local poetry group as part of the 4th of July poetry contest just before leaving for Oaxaca.  Lo and behold, I return to discover I “won” for this little, fluffy ditty.  We all know the “honey do” list, don’t we?

Honey Do 4th of July

Please mow the grass, dear
What, you didn’t hear?
Let me say it again loud and clear.

Make sure the cooler is filled with ice
Cut the watermelon with an even slice
Sorry, did I forget to be nice?

Fill the lanterns with citronella oil
So mosquitoes don’t cause our guests to recoil.
Next, pat the burgers onto aluminum foil.

Light the grill an hour before cooking
Just to make sure the coals are hot smoking
That’s right, honey, keep checking and looking.

Oh, my goodness, what did we forget?
Got the beer? Got the wine? No, not yet?
Hurry, not much time, but try not to fret.

Move the picnic table, take out the trash,
Find the plastic stack chairs for this bash,
It’s important that we make big splash.

My boss will arrive early, her habit I know,
She likes her scotch neat, her young beau in toe,
Better stop at the ABC store, got enough dough?

One more thing, honey, please, to do if you can,
Put out ketchup, mustard, the honey roast ham.
Then the kitchen floor needs mopping, use Spic ‘n Span.

What shall we do if people stay late?
More than four hours and I’m going to hate
That I offered to host with such a full plate.

Whew, so much to do, I’m tired already,
I need a break ‘cause my knees are unsteady.
Last thing, run the flag up the pole, dear Betty.

Fourth of July comes but once a year,
It’s so much work for a few hours of cheer.
Thanks for your help to get ready, my dear.

-Norma Hawthorne, July 2009

Oaxaca Restaurant: Los Pacos Known for Moles (MOH-lays)

Mole is a Oaxacan treasure, a rich sauce flavored with chili that tops beef, chicken, pork, vegetables, tamales, and tortilla dishes.  The most popular (and well known) are mole negro and mole coloradito, but it comes in seven varieties.  We stumbled upon Los Pacos on our last night in Oaxaca after circling and searching Independencia west of town looking for Mi Casa (near Aparicio–recommended by a friend), which we never located.  It was 9:30 p.m. and we needed to be at the bus station by 12:00 midnight and our stomachs were rumbling.  Eric said he heard of Los Pacos but had never been there.  We walked several blocks east of Macedonia Alcala to discover it was right around the corner from the Camino Real Hotel at Abosolo #121, Centro Historico, Tel. 516-17-04.

Have you been here before? we were asked by the proprietress Lucy Rodriguez Galguera.  No, we answered in unison.  We are known for our moles, she said.  Let me bring you a sampler.  She came back to our white clothed table with small dishes and a plate of fresh corn tortillas for dipping.  The mole estofado was the hands-down favorite for all of of us, with the mole negro coming in for a close second.  The mole negro was rich, spicy, deep, dark chocolatey and smooth.  You could just imagine the secret recipe being prepared by someone in the kitchen who knew exactly how to blend the chilis, nuts, cinnamon and chocolate. In addition, the sampler included amarillo (spicy yellow), coloradito (chocolate and tomatoes), verde (green chilis mixed with small white beans), chichilo, and estofado moles.  The estofado was sweet, smokey and had a hint of raisins or berries.  It was spectacular.  Because I couldn’t decide, I customized my order by asking for three chicken enchiladas, each topped with a different mole:  negro, verde and estofado.  Our waiter happily complied even though my request was not on the menu!

Dinner for the four of us was under $60 USD and included beer, wine, and an appetizer.  As we ate, we looked out through the tall, arched, windows, onto the avenue bathed in lamplight at the ancient stone walls of the ex-convent across the street.  Behind us on the far end of the dining room were blown glass lamps illuminating the carved wooden bar.  Everyone in the room glowed with warmth and happiness.  The harmony of food, friendship and the city we love, made this a perfect spot with which to end this part of our journey.

This restaurant was written up in the NY Times and Conde Nast Traveler at least 4-5 years ago.  I would venture to say it is every bit as good today as it was then.