Sunday afternoons in Tlacolula
Tlacolula de Matamoros is a town just 40 minutes outside of downtown Oaxaca City. My wife spent weekends there as a child at her maternal grandmother’s house and she has many fond memories of escaping the city to go play with her cousins. Luckily our daughter has had the opportunity to spend many weekends there and we plan to go when we visit in July. Five of my mother-in-law’s eight siblings still live there, as do a number of their children, which means that there is always someone to visit and a reason to go to Tlacolula.
The market and tianguis
Even if you do not have people to visit, a trip Tlacolula on the weekend is well worth it. Sunday is market day and the whole main street leading from the Pan-American highway to the church in the middle of town is closed off and filled with stalls of vendors selling everything from fresh produce to clothes to tools and household items. This kind of market in Mexico is called a tianguis and has roots in pre-Hispanic trading traditions. People come from all around the central valley of Oaxaca to buy and sell at the tianguis.
Near the church in the municipal market you can find all types of fresh and prepared foods such as barbacoa de chivo – barbecued lamb. Only on Sundays can you experience this town’s specialty meat dish (I’m vegetarian but I have enjoyed their side dishes and drinks) in consomé (broth) or in tacos.
Tourism in traditional towns
While preparing to write this post I looked through my photos from Oaxaca to find some of Tlacolula. I found some, but they are mostly of family and parties, and I realized that I do not have any of the town or market.
Lesley Téllez writes a food blog called The Mija Chronicles and she wrote about how she felt as a tourist with a camera in the Tlacolula market. She arrived with her nice new camera ready to document everything that she was experiencing, and immediately felt rude by taking photos.
What it came down to was, yes, I had a camera, but I didn’t like being treated like a rude tourist. Was I acting like one, just because I had a camera? Should I have not taken any pictures at all? I cared deeply about Mexican food and culture, and to arrive at Tlacolula and be treated like an outsider stung. But obviously I was an outsider. I didn’t speak Zapotec and I didn’t live in Tlacolula, and these people weren’t making a dime from me. To just tromp in and expect them to cater to me didn’t seem respectful either.
Since I do not have any photos, and there are not many online I will leave you with this video (in Spanish) that gives you a view of Tlacolula’s market on a Sunday afternoon. Thankfully I have lots of memories of sights, smells and tastes from Tlacolula, and I hope that one day you will too!
Planning your visit
There are many organized tours that go to Tlacolula and surrounding towns from Oaxaca City (best if your Spanish is limited), or you can go by yourself by bus or taxi. There are buses that leave from the second class bus station near the Central de Abastos and collective taxis that leave from outside the baseball stadium. Within Tlacolula it is easy to get around by foot or by hiring a mototaxi.