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Day Trip From Oaxaca City: Ocotlán

This is a cross post from one of our frequent collaborators, Ferron Salniker. You can read her excellent blog Ferronlandia here. This piece was originally published on 3/16/16. You can read the original here.

On Fridays it’s market day in Ocotlán de Morales, a town about 20 miles south of Oaxaca city. Like any market day in Oaxaca tarps web out from the permanent market covering a maze of stands selling fruits and vegetables, dried chiles and fish, kitchen tools, ceramics and woven bags, jeans and cheap plastic jewelry. It’s fun to weave your way through, but if you can only take so much overstimulation (like me) you will want some other things to do:

Eat with Frida
Inside the permanent market in the hot food area, you can’t miss La Cocina de Frida. Hearts filled with rose petals hang from her sign, and when I arrived a single guitar player sang cielito lindo to an older couple eating at the communal table. Beatriz, who dresses like Frida, was stuffing chiles while another cook sorted through dried beans, and I sat next to a woman trying to feed her squirming son some pan dulce and chocolate (c’mon kid!)

Ocotlan market Frida

Frida is actually Beatriz, whose family has run the stand for 70 years. “Frida, who?” she said jokingly when I asked her what the deal was. “I’ve always dressed like this, my dad used to give me flowers to put in my hair and when I was little and people would tell me I looked like Frida. When I finally learned who she was I just went with it.” She still wears flowers in her hair every day.

It could be a simple tourist gimmick if her food wasn’t good. I had a silky estofado (like a mole) made with almonds, it was nutty and tart from the dried fruit. From her stand you can watch the market move around you: women lined up with wrapped up quesadilla half-moons dyed orange from the yellow mole, older women walking around with bundles of garlic, and the meals headed to the communal tables, each with a bright oilcloth and a tall vase of calla lilies or roses.

Templo and Convento Santo Domingo
Take a stroll through the garden leading up to the ornate blue and gold Templo de Santo Domingo. To the left is the restored Santo Domingo Convento, now home to paintings by artist Rodolfo Morales.
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Morales was born in Ocotlán and before he passed in 2001 he spent much of his time and money restoring buildings in his hometown and creating cultural spaces in the area, including the Santo Domingo complex.
Rodolfo Morales
The former monestary and prison is now a museum with rotating exhibitions and several rooms of work by Morales, the most striking a room of colorful columns depicting a market scene. Behind many of the vendors was a background similar to the patterns you’ll see on textiles and bags in the area.  I find his work dreamy (literally), with deeply vibrant colors and often oversized faces and hands.

Mural in the municipal palace (on the plaza)
There’s nothing really in the hallway of the municipal palace but a huge mural by Morales of a market and harvest. I could have spent a half an hour here.
Mural Morales

Casa de Cultura Rodolfo Morales
Unfortunately this place was closed when I went, but the restored 18th century mansion now features galleries, a theatre and personal artifacts from Morales. From the gates outside, the garden looked lovely.
Casa Morales

There are also some wonderful artisans in the area, but I didn’t have time to check them out before heading back to Oaxaca— there was a dude following me around who I probably could have taken but didn’t want to risk it for a clay pot (#solofemaletravelerlife).

Getting There:
I took a colectivo (like a minibus) for $25 pesos from the station at Calle Bustamante #601 in the centro. Takes about 45 mins and will drop you off right in the plaza. They leave on the other side of the street, next to the plaza when returning to Oaxaca.

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