By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.
We arrive in the fields about 5:30 pm, near the foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur, trying to catch the final glimmer of light before dusk sets in. I’ve invited a group of Oaxacan friends to accompany me and my native Zapoteco amigos Juana, Andrés and two of their children, into the countryside to witness the harvesting of aguamiel from the majestic Agave americana. The plant is commonly known as pulquero, because it’s the main species used to make pulque in Santiago Matatlán. And that’s the motive for the trek; even Oaxacans rarely if ever have had an opportunity to learn about pulque production first hand, out amongst the towering rows of maguey (agave). Continue reading A Primer on Pulque: Harvesting Aguamiel
By Julie Etra
Living here on the Oaxacan coast, we native English speakers forget that Spanish was not the native language here (in fact there are 16 distinct languages in the State of Oaxaca). Although we have absorbed so many Native American words in the USA and Canada daily vocabulary, like cars, bridges, highways and athletic teams, it is a bit different here (from my perspective). Many pre-Colombian languages in Oaxaca are still spoken, and Zapotec words are found in daily culture in and around Huatulco, such as the names of restaurants like Itoó (come and eat) and hotels like Binniguenda (actually Binni guenda, two words, and means Shaman, a live soul, or ancient people), etc. At Hagia Sofia, the lovely gardens on the way to Pluma Hidalgo, the plants are labeled with scientific, Spanish (Mexican) common, and Zapotec names. Continue reading Zapotec: Language and Perspective
By Ramiro Vasquez
Since ancient times, agaves have been used for multiple purposes. They provided honey water that allowed long migrations through the desert, honey vinegar and alcoholic beverages were obtained from it; it’s cooked hearts are a delicious meal, it is used as medicine, the spines as surgical and ritual instruments, its fibers for clothing, the leafs for roofing, the quiote for musical instruments, tools and as building material. Just like corn, agaves provided resources for different nomad tribes to settle communities and then develop complex civilized societies. Continue reading The Empire Strikes Back…
By Brooke Gazer
Sampling the fabulous fresh fruit found in this region is one of the many pleasures Huatulco offers. While some are available year round others are referred to as “fruta de la temporada” or seasonal fruit. Visitors and residents of Huatulco are fortunate to have access to almost 80 varieties of fruit from the extensive orchards of Hagia Sofia. Some are local to Oaxaca but Armando Canavati has introduced a number of interesting new crops from around the world. Three exotic examples are: Mata Sabor, Mangosteen and Rambutan. Continue reading Exotic Seasonal Fruits
By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.
While there are indeed producers of certified organic foodstuffs and spirits in the central valleys of Oaxaca, the question arises as to whether tourists on a short visit, or residents of its capital, should go out of their way to seek out production from these purveyors. Are there healthy, sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to shopping in the Friday and Saturday organic market in the Xochimilco neighborhood in the north end of the city, or patronizing restaurants which boast using certified organic produce or being Slow Food proponents? Continue reading Certified Organic Produce in Oaxaca: Is it Necessary or Even Advisable?
By Doreen Woelfel
Oaxaca is a coffee state, one of few in Mexico, (including Veracruz, Chiapas, Tabasco and Michoacan), but definitely one of the most beautiful of the coffee lands. Many visitors know to head up to Pluma Hildago for not only a scenic, cooling, drive, but to see this small village perched on the side of a mountain, overlooking a vast amount of the Sierra Madre Sur and the coast of Oaxaca and of course, buy beans. Coffee, not a native plant, is most likely native to Africa/Ethiopia area, but was cultivated in southern Arabia early in coffee drinking history. Coffee was first written about and spread in popularity in the Mediterranean area in the mid 15th century, and the coffee story moves from there, as explorers and conquerors brought coffee home with them and to new lands. Continue reading Coffee
By Julie Etra
Magueys are monocots in the sub-family Agavoideae, previously classified in the family Agavaceae. Agave comes from the Greek word Agavo, which means magnificent, noble, admirable and was called the tree of miracles by the conquistadores. Other common names are sosquil, pita, cabuya, fique, mescal, toba (in Zapotec) and ki (Mayan). One of the 9 bays of Huatulco is named for this plant. They are abundant in the Mexican landscape and form a dominant portion of the vegetation in many parts of Mexico, especially in semi-arid regions. Distribution is from the Canadian-US border to Bolivia, including the Caribbean. The greatest diversity is in Mexico, home to 76% of the world’s population or 157 species of which 71% (111) are endemic, meaning they occur no where else. Fifty-two species occur in the state of Oaxaca. The origin of this group of plants dates to the Miocene or about 15 million years ago. They flower only once, after about 10-12 tears and also reproduce vegetatively which is how they are generally cultivated. They have lifespan of about 25years and are pollinated by bats and hummingbirds. Continue reading Maguey
By Kary Vannice
Huatulco has a new organic market! Officially known as el Mercado Orgánico de Huatulco or MOH. It is held in the park at Santa Cruz, from 8:00am to 2:00pm the first Saturday of every month, until November when it will become a weekly event!
A few months ago a small group of friends were enjoying an evening drink in the cool night air at Café Huatulco when someone mused, “You know what Huatulco really needs? …An organic market”. To which another friend responded, “Well, let’s make one”. Continue reading Huatulco’s New Organic Market
By Julie Etra
Tagetes erecta, the Mexican marigold, also called Aztec marigold, is native to Mexico and Central America although it is frequently and mistakenly called African marigold. The common name Cempasúchil (also spelled cempazúchil) is derived from the Nahuatl term for the flower zempoalxochitl, which means “twenty flower”. This is an interesting name as the flower is in the composite family (Asteraceae) along with many common flowers such as daisy, coneflower, yarrow, and dandelion. Continue reading Cempasuchil/ Calendula/ Marigold: Flower of the Dead
By Deborah Van Hoewyk
“This is delicious. It has the flavor of the tradition of who WE are.” — Amelia Gómez, Totontepec Villa de Morelos.
More than a mile high in the Sierra Sur of northeastern Oaxaca lies Totontepec Villa de Morelos, a cabecera, or “head” town of the municipality of the same name. Totontepec currently covers fourteen mountain communities that are home to about 6,000 Mixe (“mee-hay”) people. The Mixe language has nearly a dozen dialects; the Totontepecanos speak Ayook and call themselves “Ayookja’ay”; ‘Ayook’ means la gente, “the people,” and ‘ja’ay’ is del idioma florida, “of a blossoming language.” Continue reading The Wisdom of Maíz – Will it Lose it’s voice?