One of the tricky parts of continuous travel is that with every new day comes a new place to research. Always a new town with a brand new list of must see items. Guide books are obviously a good starting point, but seldom do they give you what we consider the “good stuff”. The stuff the locals know: how to avoid the traps, where to get an authentic yet cheap meal, or how to avoid the crowds and get off the beaten track. When we were in Oaxaca I visited a few outfitters not with the intention of purchasing services but only in the hopes of gathering information. I hit the jackpot when I met Eric, a native Oaxacan who was kind enough to spend over an hour giving me the goods. I left with a laundry list of enticing places to see and things to do. If not for him we may not have stopped in San Jose Del Pacifico, nor would we have been likely to stop in Chiapas de Corzo to take a tour of Canyon Sumidero. When we arrived in Chipas de Corzo we quickly realized we had lucked out again in that we had coincidentally arrived during their week long annual fiesta. And if there’s only one thing we’ve learned about travelling through Mexico it is to never pass up an opportunity to fiesta.
The night started off with something that we had wanted to try for a while, a michelada. While travelling through Mexico, we had seen signs advertising micheladas outside many cantinas but it wasn’t until we were far into Mexico before finding out what it actually was: a half liter of beer mixed with tomato juice (or clamato), lime juice, an assortment of hot sauces, spices, and Worcestershire sauce, served on ice. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds, at first, but by the end of my drink I realized the importance of stirring as I was left with little beer and mostly the denser spices and hot sauces. Prodded by the reluctance to allow any beer to go to waste I choked the last bit of my michelada down leaving me quite literally with a sour taste in my mouth.
One of the more interesting traditions we saw while wandering around town is that many of the men in town during the festival dress up in drag. Considering about 90% of Mexico is Catholic and conservative we figured this tradition must be rooted pretty deep to continue to go on year after year. Everyone seemed to be getting a kick out of it. For many of the men, with the 5 o’clock shadow and a pounder of beer in one hand, not to mention the way they carried themselves, it was obvious that this is a once a year activity. For others it seems to come a bit more natural, maybe the only night of the year when they truly get to be themselves. In any case, it is just another example of a city’s completely unique tradition.
As soon as we got back to the hotel room, we noticed the noise from the street becoming increasingly loud. When I went out to see what it was all about it appeared that the entire town was parading from the central square to the church. When I say the entire town, I mean the entire town. It didn’t seem to be all that organized, it was as if everyone had just taken a quick break from all the partying to go for a quick walk together. The street was packed from curb to curb, the crowd with distinguishable groupings of families and friends of all ages, almost all of whom had a drink in their hands. To me it gave this decent size town a disproportionate small town feeling. I got a glimpse of a moment when these smaller groups could retain their intimacy while remaining part of something larger. I’ve never seen a community this large that was able to party together, and they seemed to have a really great time doing it.
Erik works for tierra ventura but also runs some tours on his own. He has mountain bike tours from Tule to Tlacolula (his home town, and the place where Tlayudas were invented, according to his mom) for $40-$60 US for groups of 4 or 3 respectively. If you’re in the area and looking for some fun stuff to do stop by Tierra Ventura and say hi for us.