Photo: Ron Mader, Ayuuk Ceramic (available at La Cosecha, Alcalá #806
Arte popular has no finer home than Oaxaca City.
Whether you are seeking jewelry, woven rugs, shawls, ceramics or elaborate wooden figures, the famous alebrijes, you could be overwhelmed by the variety and quality of local crafts. Our suggestion – take your time, check out and add a star if you’d like to the photos, read a bit before you arrive and visit a few of the stores and meet our favorite artesanos.
• Be respectful and listen to the soundscape.
• Learn how to say ‘thank you’ in an indigenous language. Oaxaca has 16 indigenous groups and more than 100 languages. Here are a few greetings from the local markets.
• Seek out old friends. Print a photo you’ve seen on Flickr and seek out the vendor or artisan. Give them what you have printed out.
Short on time? Here’s the short-list of where to go:
Casa de las Artesanias
Instituto Oaxaqueño de las Artesanias
Mujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca (MARO)
Mujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca (MARO), 5 de Mayo #204, 516-0670. Open 9am to 8pm every day. MARO is run as a cooperative whose crafts women and administrators are involved in all stages of production – from the purchase of raw materials to selling their own products. FLICKR
Mercado de Artesanias is the largest market dedicated exclusively to crafts in the city. Located five blocks southwest of the Zócalo, the market has a wide selection and great prices. Products range from jewelry to rugs and wooden figures. Thanks to the quality of the crafts, this is one of the nicest craft markets in the country.
Artesanias Teresita, Murguia #100-B. Victor Vazquez manages a store that specializes in wooden figures (alebrijes).
Artesanias de buena mano, Constitución #108. Francisco Jesus Hernandez Perez runs this store across from Santo Domingo and just east of the Pañuelto Garden. Buena Mano specializes in replicas of exvotos, bottlecap earrings and hand-made paper from the Taller Arte Papel Oaxaca in San Agustín Etla. Flickr
La Mano Magica, Alcalá #203, 516-4275, sells rugs and weavings as well as paintings and stylish curios. Located across the across street from the Museum of Contemporary Art, this is an impressive gallery. Website
Casa de Artesanias de Oaxaca, Matamoros #105 at the corner of Garcia Vigil, 516-5062. Open Monday-Saturday. This cooperative includes more than 80 organizations and family workshops. Wheelchair-friendly. Website
Mercado Benito Juárez is the town’s oldest market (inaugurated in 1893). Located two blocks southwest of the Zócalo, the market is a great place to buy crafts and local food.
Adolfina, Xicotencatl #418 (corner of Rayón), 514-6618. Traditional clothing, including dresses from the Istmo and men’s guayabera shirts. Beautiful quality.
Los Baules, Alcala, photo. Quality textiles and embroidered blouses and dresses.
Oro de Monte Albán, Alcalá #403, #503, photo. Jewelry is styled with Zapotec designs from Monte Albán and other archaeological sites. In 1947 Rosa Quevedo and her daughter Tere Calvo started a family business opening the first jewelry shop in town. In 1985 they received authorization of the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico to reproduce ancient works of indigenous art. Website
New locales for old friends
If you are seeking quality embroidered textiles, visit Adolfina, Ayuuk, Los Baules and Mujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca (MARO).
Want something light and inexpensive? Check out the clothes made from muslin or calico (manta) at the Mercado de Artesanias. Among the advantages of clothes made from manta — it’s an authentic display of embroidery, it’s light and it’s beautiful (Fresca, linda, autentica!).
Beautiful jewelry can be found at the Mercado de Artesanias and at Oro de Monte Albán.
Thin tin figures (hojolata) are famous.
The wooden beaters (molinillos) used to make chocolate are for sale in most markets.
Gift bags and wrapping paper are sold at Manzano, located in the Abasto(s) Market, Local #273 and 20 de Noviembre #305. Over the Christmas holidays, look for bright-colored lanterns (farolas).
Not standard crafts but the place to go if you want the local pop cycle molds – El Cisne, Zaragoza #304
SPIDER ART – Local artist Boris ‘Spider’ shows kids of all ages how to make artistic creations at Alcala #902-Bis. Summer workshops run during the school vacations, particularly July-August. Slideshow
If you want to learn more about craft production, it’s easy to purchase directly from the artisans.
For example, if you’re interested in purchasing a rug, visit a family-owned workshops in the nearby towns of Santa Ana del Valle and Teotitlán del Valle. Black pottery catch your fancy? Visit San Bartolo Coyotepec. Wooden figures (alebrijes)? Visit San Antonio Arrazola and San Martin Tilcajete.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT BUYING CRAFTS IN OAXACA
GO ON YOUR OWN OR WITH SOMEONE YOU TRUST – If you visit craft villages on your own, 100% of your purchases go the artisans. Many package tours insist on a commission (paid from the artisan to the guide) and rates can go up to 40%. If you go on your own, you’ll see authentic production, not a show.
FOR THE LAZY – Vendors stroll the tables on the Zócalo in the afternoons and evenings. They sell toys and trinkets and all sorts of crafts. It’s an easy way to make purchases, particularly if you want a wooden comb or a rebozo.
PRICING – Prices vary depending on the quality of the product and where you make your purchase. That said, prices in the Mercado de Artesanias are generally not much higher than what you find in artisan homes.
MEASURING – If you are purchasing a rug, you might want to take a measuring tape, particularly if you are looking for a particular size.
SHIPPING – Most craft shops can pack your purchases for shipment. So if you see something fragile you’d like, ask if they can pack the materials securely.
AIRLINE PASSENGERS – Metal and tin crafts (hojalata), mirrors and any sharp object (including knives) must be packed in checked luggage.
FOR MORE INFO – Shoppers interested in learning how traditional craft production fits in to sustainable and responsible travel should review our guide to Tourism and Crafts.