Oaxaca is one of the most complex states in the Mexican Republic. It is conformed by 570 municipalities, a very important number in itself. Of these, 418 are governed by uses and customs, that is, they are not constitutional. Which in itself represents a deeply political problem. So deep that, to this day, constitutional governments have to deal with the anger or decision of the people. Illustrious Oaxacan people say that when Benito Juárez wanted to resolve a conflict between countrymen, he appealed to the creation of a municipality.
No matter how important or transcendent an Oaxacan may be abroad, in another country or another state, customs and traditions force them to return to their original town to serve their community, even if they have to return from Switzerland or Germany, whether he or she can be CEO’s or chefs of the best restaurant, because the call of the people is more important than any personal success, on penalty of not being able to re-enter their place of origin.
This is one of the examples of how deeply rooted Oaxaca is and its proud inhabitants. Wonderful people who have preserved Oaxacan pride, culture, historical legacy, food, and unique geography.
I had the opportunity to talk with many proud Oaxacans. With Paco, guardian of Monte Albán, a man who has been taking care for 26 years one of the most important sites of universal culture and archeology in the world, where many of the most mysterious treasures have emerged from the bowels of their tombs such as the breastplate from tomb 7 to the vampire mask, stolen and recovered at the CDMX Museum of Anthropology. Talking with Paco, I realized how proud the people of Monte Alban are, their culture, and their legacy.
Likewise, you can know almost by chance, thanks to a guide known in a previous town, the prehistoric caves of Yagul and Mitla, where Leo, an inhabitant of the community that owns the land in which they are located, took us through the mountain through five caves with impressive cave paintings, intact and newly discovered just five years ago.
In addition to this, the most impressive thing was knowing about the ethnobotanical garden which without a doubt is an initiative that exceeded expectations. Annex to the church and convent of Santo Domingo, a garden proposed as a living memory of our heritage and our past. A succession of logical plants that honor history and that remind us that nature and development can never be dissociated. It shows us how the economic center of New Spain was much more artisanal, based on the trade and the boom of the cochineal grana, a pigment extracted from the plague that sticks to the nopal, essential for the realization and sale of all kinds of arts of the time and that, in addition, determined the political organization that today makes Oaxaca a magical, but a problematic place.
The director of this magical place, Alejandro de Ávila, is undoubtedly one of the most passionate historians and forerunners of Oaxacan pride. This 2.3-hectare space, winner of international awards, such as the Reina Sofía, is an Oaxacan pride and national pride.
I also witnessed the existence of a great gastronomy movement that preserves unpretentious ancestral flavors, ingredients, and techniques, with the sole objective of showing the greatness of the Zapotec and Mixtec heritage. The mezcal, the tasajo, the ayocotes, the quelites, the corn, the necessary nixtamalization, the infinite gastronomic culture that should be an endless pride for Mexicans.
Perhaps it is commonplace to talk about mezcal, although the industry is growing, in terms of products and capitalization of the brand, but the places where diners are left breathless are, without a doubt, a surprising matter, many of them have terraces overlooking the temple of Santo Domingo. By the way, it shows off an atrium that was remodeled at the time with an investment of more than 200 million pesos and that today is a universal jewel. In this polygon, you can enjoy the Criollo restaurant, the Los Amantes terrace, with a fantastic and frontal view and mezcal that is exhausted in the imagination such as El Terco. All, by the way, taking care of the healthy distance and strictly applying sanitary measures.
Special mention deserves the Quinta Real hotel, in the very complex of Santo Domingo, being one of the most surprising in the world and the hospitality of the Fiesta Americana Grand.
Special mention deserves all the Oaxacan designers who, proud of their roots, make true works of art with fabrics, threads, and needles, such as Josafat Gómez, whose grandparents built in her house a workshop in which her pieces made by hand with threads gold and silver evoke the fauna of this region of the country.
All of this is only part of what makes Oaxaca the epicenter of the cultural and culinary revolution. All of the above is, without a doubt, part of a pride that we must carry in our veins and that the Oaxaqueños taught me this week. The pride of our culture, the pride of being Mexican, and the pride that Oaxaca is one of the most amazing places in the world. And I have to acknowledge that the state authorities ensure that social distancing measures are applied with strict care.
For all this, Oaxaca is a wonder and a light of hope for how we can move forward: proud of who we are and in solidarity with what we will be.