By SALLY & MIKE HARRIS
Two years ago we spent 10 days in Oaxaca, Mexico (pronounced Wah-HA-Ka) with a group of photographers. We loved the city so much that we rented a house for a month this past winter. Our home was in the center of the city. We could roll out of bed and walk 100 yards to our favorite coffee shop.
Oaxaca has it all. The weather is perfect: warm and sunny during the day, cool at night. The people could not be more friendly and welcoming.
People always ask if we are fluent in Spanish. We are not, but we committed to change that. We stopped by a language school our first day and loved the owner. We committed to 20 hours of instruction. The result is what we expected. We are hopeless failures when it comes to other languages, but it was a lot of fun trying. And we made friends just by trying to speak their language:
This is the owner of our favorite coffee shop and his dog.
One day we passed by an open door and saw this woman. Mike asked if he could photograph her, and she responded with this beautiful smile.
Sally walked by this fascinating barber shop several times before she had the courage to ask if she could photograph “Sir Pepe the Barber.” He was more than happy to oblige.
Oaxaca is known for its sophisticated cuisine and abundance of art. Visually – it is spectacularly colorful. The buildings are painted in bright colors. Murals are everywhere – and because Day of the Dead is a popular holiday, skeletons are a common theme. There seems to be no limit on the creativeness of Oaxacan artists. There also seem to be murals on every street.
Almost every day (or night) we encountered locals singing, parading or dancing in the street. We loved photographing women with their twirling traditional skirts.
Traditions and celebrations play a big role, and most are very public. Here you see two Mexican traditions passing by each other. On the left is a young señorita in a beautiful pink dress walking with an entourage to her ‘quinceanera,’ the traditional celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday (like our Sweet 16) and on the right are two hombres carrying their ‘mojigangas’ – large puppets – to a wedding celebration. A busy Saturday afternoon on the streets of Oaxaca!
We were quite taken by one tradition that took place during our stay. It is called “Good Samaritan Day” and takes place on the 4th Friday of Lent. Churches, stores, schools, and other establishments set up tables with big pots covered with flowers and filled with flavored water that they offer to all who walk by.
Within a 30 mile radius, you can spend the day perusing one of many “mercados” (markets) where you find every conceivable item for sale. Even chicken and cattle. Different villages host these huge markets each day of the week. This way they are not in competition for customers. This image, to me, captures the feel, the vibrant colors, the smells, and the smoky atmosphere of the food area of the markets.
One morning we walked up to the highest accessible point in Oaxaca – and watched the sun rise over the mountains. It was breathtaking.