Tag Archives: Travel Guides

Oaxaca Shopping Mania: Take Advantage of My Weakness

Gold + Silver Leaf Mirror by Talleres Zegache, $125 + shipping

I’ve just published a number of new items for sale on the Gallery–Shop Here page of this web site (see home page, click on button under banner).  I don’t usually shop for and buy Oaxaca art and craft because I need it.  I do it to support the artists and artisans.  The creativity that is expressed through these art forms is extraordinary and often I find myself digging into my pocket or going to the ATM in order to sustain the art, their creators and their families.  You might say, ‘Norma, this is just an excuse.’  Nevertheless, here I confess my weakness.  However, in order to curtail the acquisition in-flow, I am offering a few wonderful pieces for sale that I found during my recent Oaxaca comings and goings.

The piece above is just one fine example.  It is from Santa Ana Zegache, the small Ocotlan area village where famed Oaxaca artist Rudolfo Morales restored and painted an extraordinary church and supported artistic expression through the foundation he established before he died.  Talleres Zegache is a workshop of village craftspeople who restore and reproduce colonial mirrors.  Click on the photo where  I have provided a more complete description.  This particular mirror (above) uses gold and silver leaf, and cochineal red paint.  It is extraordinary!

If you are visiting Oaxaca, please stop by Talleres Zegache.  They are well hidden, not easy to find, tucked way in the back (I suspect because the rent is cheaper), at Plaza Lucero, 5 de Mayo #412. I don’t know much much longer they will be there because business hasn’t been brisk (tourism is down all over Oaxaca because of the drug war scares).  A pity, since the area is safe, family-friendly and gorgeous.

Women Speak About Safety Traveling to and in Oaxaca

Eleven women gathered together in early March 2011 to participate in our first Oaxaca Women’s Writing and Yoga Retreat: Lifting Your Creative Voice.  All were from the United States except for two, an Australian transplant living in Mexico City and a local Zapotec woman from the village of Teotitlan del Valle.  Nine of us traveled to Oaxaca by air, some making connections through Mexico City, all negotiating the distance in time and space independently, solo, alone. Our ages ranged from 28 to 60-something.  Several had never been to Mexico before.

During our week together we talked about what it was like for a woman to travel to Mexico on her own, and I included the following question on the program evaluation form.  I want to share participant responses with you.

What would you say to people who are concerned about safety and hesitant to travel to Oaxaca?

I would say you are often as safe as you think you are and that bad media, amongst other things are only trying to feed your fears. That safety is not a concern in Oaxaca, just to be wise, as you would anywhere and trust your gut, come well-informed and open your arms and heart to the beauty of the incredible place.

Not a problem. We felt perfectly safe in Teotitlan del Valle.

There are some simple precautions to take regarding food, but I have always felt safe here and that the people are very helpful.

I would say – “you are missing an awesome (in the real, not slang sense of the word) experience.”

It’s a wonderful place. I did not feel threatened in any way.

It was safe and people were kind, patient, friendly.

I felt more safe here than in many U.S. cities. I saw/heard no violence, no drunkenness, no homelessness.

Oaxaca, Wednesday, March 2-4, 2011 — Not Warm, HOT

Is it global warming that makes the temperature so unpredictable these days? Or is my memory of March pasts failing me?  My bags are packed for my flight to Oaxaca tomorrow, but I may need to reconsider!  Temperatures will range from 89-93 degrees Fahrenheit according to the Weather Underground.  That’s HOT.

Pull out the lightweight cotton and linen.  Put away the fleece.  Grab the sleeveless dress.  Ditch the Patagonia black long-sleeve T.  Reconsider the heavy handwoven cochineal dyed poncho.  Add a lightweight sweater instead.  Pack the straw hat or better yet, buy one there.  What about those wool socks?  They will wick-away the sweat, yes, but my feet will be really HOT.  Sandals sound really appealing.

This high desert, altitude 6,000 feet, confuses me.  At night the temperatures will drop like a stone to about 46 degrees F.  Then, there will be a chill in the air and what will I want to wrap around me?  That wool poncho, perhaps?

Weather map of Oaxaca

Check out the map to see for yourself!

Perception vs. Reality: U.S. Ranks #7 in Gun Violence; Mexico Ranks #17

Is it safe to travel to Mexico?  Is it safe to travel to Oaxaca?  Is it safe to fly to Mexico City and change planes for Oaxaca there?

Here’s a web site you should know about:  NationMaster sent to me by my friend Sheri Brautigam, an expat who lives in Oaxaca.

It is a massive central data source and a handy way to graphically compare nations. NationMaster is a vast compilation of data from such sources as the CIA World Factbook, UN, and OECD.

I used their form to search using these terms:  crime, gun violence, homicides. What was generated was a map, graph, and pie charts of rankings by country. I was surprised to see that the U.S. outranks Mexico in the use of firearms that resulted in deaths.  If we are to believe the media, our friends and family, it would be a different story.

But statistics don’t lie.   That’s why you should keep and use this site to find out other factoids about life as we think we know it.

This coming Wednesday morning I will climb aboard a regional jet from RDU to JFK.  Six hours later I will land in Mexico City and board another regional jet for Oaxaca.  I am traveling alone.  I will negotiate the NYC airport solo and make my way through the new international terminal at the Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City by myself.  The airport in Mexico City is like many other new, clean and vibrant airports across the U.S., filled with restaurants, shops, and helpful staff.  It is a shopping and eating adventure, so if you have a layover it can be a lot of fun.

A recent Seattle Times article noted, “Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism said the number of foreign visitors in 2010 exceeded the approximately 22 million travelers who arrived in 2008 — before the outbreak of swine flu in April 2009 left resorts empty for much of the rest of the year.

The U.S. Commerce Department said visits to Mexico by US residents rose 8 percent during the first six months of 2010 — a period that includes spring break months — compared to the same time period in 2009.

Much of that has been attributable to the favorable exchange rate and cheaper package deals at Mexican resorts, Travel Leaders spokeswoman Kathy Gerhardt said.”

How safe is it in Oaxaca, Mexico?

February 21, 2011, Pittsboro, NC — In eight days I’ll be leaving for Oaxaca, traveling solo.  My flights will take me from RDU to JFK to Mexico City to Oaxaca.  (A circuitous route for sure, yet the most economical on the day I decided to buy my ticket.) Am I concerned for my personal safety?  No.

Why? you might ask.  Because traveling to Oaxaca is not a mystery to me.  Because I have done it so many times over the years that it doesn’t phase me.  It is no longer an unknown to be afraid of.  Today, I was at a university lecture delivered by an international expert on Mexican migration and immigration.  When I talked with her afterward, one of the first things she asked me was, “Is it safe in Oaxaca?”  I was surprised by her question, an educated Latina who has traveled regularly to Mexico.  I replied that Oaxaca is so far from the border where the drug wars and skirmishes take place that it is barely touched by this type of violence.  Yet, I am only one voice.

Every day, about 20% of the search terms that come in to this blog are related to the question, how safe is it in Oaxaca?

Next week, 10 women will gather together in Teotitlan del Valle for a creative writing and yoga retreat.  All are traveling solo from various parts of the U.S. — Colorado, Maine, California, Ohio, and North Carolina.  One is Australian who lives in Mexico City. Several have never been to Mexico before.  My goal is to have a discussion with them about this question of safety and why they chose to come to Oaxaca despite the prevailing winds of fear.

There are numerous posts on this blog where I have written about safety.  I have written about Mexico travel safety on Suite 101.  I have interviewed expatriates who live in Oaxaca and families who go there for winter and summer vacations.  I suppose I could be writing about safety daily.  What could I tell people about safety that would assuage their fears?

My husband was in Oaxaca for a while in late January.  He takes buses all over the city, prides himself on getting around using public transport, discovering little out-of-the-way spots where he can study Spanish and people-watch.  The biggest event was a parade of teachers on the Zocalo in front of the government building (the new governor has moved the business of governing back to the center of town where he/it is accessible to the people.)  He calmly observed democracy in action while sipping a beer at the sidewalk cafe.

Can I guarantee your safety?  Of course not!  I can only tell you how it is for me and leave it to you to come to your own conclusions.  And, of course, I’ll keep writing about this because it is important to dispel the fear.