From the Pueblo to Oaxaca: 30 Minutes and Worlds Apart

This week I took a walk to Macuilxochitl, the next village over and located perhaps two miles from Teotitlan del Valle (TDV) along an unpaved road that spurs off from TDV’s main thoroughfare near the middle school.  This was the week I learned polvo, the Spanish word for dust.  Every five minutes a 3-wheeler moto-taxi (tuk-tuk)  slaloms down this road, kicking up a thick dust cloud. Passengers in the rear seat hold a cloth to their noses.  I endured.  It was worth it!



Macuil, as the locals call it, is a small agricultural pueblo, distinguished by an extraordinary church topped with three red domes that is slowly undergoing renovation. Throughout the village ancient adobe walls are pocked with eroding stones and spider webs.


A community museum adjoining the church holds ceramics excavated from pre-conquest history and church ritual relics and paintings hang suspended from walls torn from the Zapotec temple below.


Rural Oaxaca life has its treats.  Now, the fields are being prepared for planting.  The hefty bulls, guided by an aging farmer who has done this his entire life, are hauling ancient wood plows worn smooth from time.  The smell is loamy and rich.  In another field, younger men stoop to cut alfalfa to feed their livestock or sell in the morning market.

A few days ago during a late afternoon walk along the foothill path that leads to the dam,  I bumped into a friend along the way.   Together we climbed the rocky outcropping of road lined with blooming nopal cactus and came upon a herd of goats grazing at water’s edge.

A woman and her son, who introduced themselves as Josefina and Helario, came toward us on the path carrying a bundle of firewood they had gathered farther up the hillside.

We followed the goats, the goat-herder, his tethered mares , several dogs, and the mother and son, back down the path and across the river.  Night was falling and I continued on home down the cobbled streets after we all said goodbyes, finishing up my three-hour walk in the country.


The next morning, I caught a collectivo and was off to Oaxaca for a two-night, three-day stay.  The city is a burst of color, energy, traffic, noise, excitement, great food and music, and full of commercial bustle.  In Jalatlaco I found respite at Hostal del Barrio where Dueña Oliva (below) and her daughter offer clean, basic lodging for 200 pesos a night.  (Courtyard pictured below.) The hostel is on a narrow, dead-end cobblestone street that reminds me of Italy (above, right).  A block away is a terrific, though pricey Italian trattoria called Toscana.  The pizzas, cooked in a wood-fired orno, are just like those in Rome with perfectly crunchy thin crust and probably the best buy on the menu.


I savor the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds I love — the country and the city, worlds apart though only a few miles from each other.

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