They might not have had many domesticated animals for work or for food, but 500 years ago, the ancient civilizations of Mexico were the only people in the world enjoying chocolate and chilies. Today, Oaxaca is renowned as the food capital of the country, and also famed for mezcal, a whisky-like spirit distilled from the same species of plant as tequila. I must say that I prefer mezcal though!
We have spent two nights in this city, but were destined only to see it after dark. Fortunately, this was quite appropriate as it is buzzing with life 24 hours a day, and a fiesta or celebration of some kind is never far away. We first assumed that the lights, live music in the plaza, street entertainers and elaborate weddings were because of the Christmas period. But no, we were told that Oaxaca is always like this!
The streets are also filled permanently with indigenous people selling their crafts from the surrounding mountain villages. After our 3-day trip in one of these areas, we spent another day visiting out-of-town sights such as the village of Teotitlán where we had an excellent demonstration of local weaving and natural dyes, and the impressive Arbol El Tule (a tree with supposedly the world's largest circumference).
Our tour also took in a mezcaleria where we saw how the drink is fermented (and enjoyed a few samples), and we ended the day in the evening light at the petrified waterfall of Hierve El Agua which is made of mineral deposits from the water that bubbles out of the rocks. It is almost unique - the only other place like this is in Turkey, where authorities stopped visitors getting too close some years ago. Here, people still get too close and even try to climb down the steep sides! Health and safety isn't a phrase that would mean very much in Mexico.