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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.

On The Road: San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque

Ugh! I’m glad no one told me the trip from San Cris to Palenque would be so long and grueling! We dropped from 7,000 feet altitude to sea level in what should have been a 4-hour trip under normal circumstances. But the tour van (350 pesos per person arranged by our hostel) made three stops and the trip took almost eight hours. We were the last pick up at 6 am so we got to sit over the rear axle.

I’m traveling with Tracey Ponting from Perth, Australia, who I met on the night bus from Oaxaca to San Cris last week when I was traveling with Fay Sims from Vancouver, Canada. This is how things work when you are on the road. You end up meeting travelers who are simpatico. Thanks to Tracey and her magic medicine Stugeron, an over-the-counter anti-motion sickness pill made by McNeil pharma (15 mg, generic is cinarizine), who knows what would have happened!

This tour van is a round trip one-day excursion. Most of the passengers got 1-1/2 hours at the archeological site and then made the return trip to San Cris on the same day. Crazy, I say. The trip includes admission, so Tracey and I got a preview of this extraordinary Mayan city before in we settled into our hotel, the delightful Xilbalba, and had a lovely dinner of grilled tilapia (fresh and local) before collapsing into bed at 9 pm. Oh, I forgot to mention the two beers I drank in quick succession as the appetizer.

Some tips worth mentioning:

The tourist van trip makes a breakfast stop at 9 am, then a stop at Agua Azul, a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole at 1 pm, then a stop an hour later at a second waterfall Cascada de Misol-ha (best of the two) and lunch and then gets to Palenque at 3:30 pm. My recommendation is to skip this and take the OCC bus directly to Palenque unless you love waterfalls. They need to revise the trip to give more time at the ruins and drop the 1st waterfall.

Stay at Posada del Abuelito in San Cristobal de las Casas if you are on a budget. Rob, Rebecca, and Alexandra are wonderful hosts. You can get a private room with bath for 280 pesos. Ok, so I was old enough to be everyone’s grandma, but who cares! They took really good care of me. find them on Facebook or TripAdvisor.

Stay at Hotel Xibalba in Palenque. Book online and save 15%. Clean, friendly, delightful and a bargain at $45USD per night. HOTEL XIBALBA

Do adventure travel when you are young. You are a lot more resilient and can scale those archeological sites like a gazelle. I think I will be trudging up to the top today, poco a poco, and my short legs will have to get up steps that are almost my height! But, I also seem to be a role model for the youngsters who wish their parents were like me. New motto: better later than never. A friend recently wrote–keep on keepin’ on.

This is coming to you from my iPad. I left my computer in SC. I haven’t quite figured out how to get the photos from my disk loaded onto this and them uploaded to the blog. Trying to keep up with the technology. My plan today is to record the howler monkeys. The calls I heard back and forth at dusk last night sounded like I was in an ashram. It took me a while to figure out these were monkeys I’m hearing. Eerie, given the setting. Mystical. Meditative.

Tomorrow, I’m taking a day trip to Bonampak on the Guatemala border in the Lancondon jungle. I think it’s a straight road.
Photo at Agua Azul:


Photo at Misol-ha: