Tuesday, Amy and I left the Merida area and flew to Oaxaca City, the capital of the Mexican State of Oaxaca, one of the poorest states in Mexico, for the next stage of our vacation/research trip. I had a lot of trouble saying the city’s name at first. It's pronounced "wah-HAH-kuh".
Oaxaca is located in the mountains, and it’s 300 miles from Mexico City. Because it’s further south, Oaxaca has much warmer temperatures, so it’s a popular tourist destination especially during the winter. Fortunately, we’re here before the really hot season, when most of the tourists show up. The city has its own airport, and in addition to flights from Mexico City, you can fly directly from Texas.
The city itself was founded in 1529, but people have lived in the region for thousands of years. Some of the oldest domesticated plants on the American continent have been found there, showing that even in prehistoric times, a civilization existed. There are a lot of archaeological sites to visit in the area, including Monte Alban, which from 500 B.C. to 800 A.D. was the chief city of the Zapotecs. Monte Alban is another UNESCO World Heritage site. That isn’t the only site tourists can visit in the area, but it’s the best known.
In addition to the ruins and archaeological sites, Oaxaca and the surrounding area has some beautiful buildings from the colonial era. The main part of the city is arranged like a lot of colonial-era Mexican towns, with important structures such as government buildings and a cathedral surrounding a central square. Some of the older buildings in the city are open for tourists to visit, but even the ones that aren’t are beautiful to look at. Several of them, rather than being used for their original purposes, now contain shops, restaurants, and museums.
The entire place is beautiful and well worth the trip. Oaxaca is a fairly safe city for tourists, as well, since a lot of their economy depends on the tourist trade. They want to make sure nothing bad happens to their visitors.
As interesting as the architecture in Oaxaca is, while we walked around the city, my attention was more focused on the mountains nearby. The scenery around Oaxaca is stunning! I was looking forward to visiting the mountains and seeing more of the life of the residents of the area, some of whom live in extreme poverty.
Note the mountains in the background. Oaxaca was cleaner and more upscale than Merida.
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