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I spent one month living and working in Teotitlán del Valle in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. If you are looking to unplug and connect with ancient culture, this can be the place. It’s one of the most amazing communities I have ever experienced–read on to learn more and plan your visit here!
This city is less than an hour away from Oaxaca City, by bus. And it costs 15 pesos or less than a dollar to get there! Teotitlán del Valle, or “Teo” as locals call it, is the only city I have been to where people predominantly speak an indigenous language, Zapoteco. Yes, there is Spanish–and even a bit of English, but the main language is Zapoteco.
The name Teotitlán comes from Nahuatl and means “land of the gods.” Its Zapotec name was originally Xaquija, which means “celestial constellation”. This village is considered to be one of the first that was founded by the Zapotecs around 1465. It’s both ancient and modern–there is barely any cellular service, but at least they have Wi-Fi!
So here are 6 reasons why you should come here!
This town has great governance: why, you ask?
This is one of the cleanest communities I have ever seen. I never saw garbage on the streets or even unhoused community members. This place really takes care of its people. There is a municipal law where you will be given land if you did not inherit a home from your father. You can read all about it at the Teotitlan Museum. But how did they create this system?
Tequio, or the performance of administrative duties without monetary compensation as a type of community service, is custom in this municipality. The people are chosen to serve. Their duties include acting as municipal president, which is a full-time commitment of three years. The more you fulfill voluntary community duties, the more likely you are to be chosen as municipal president.
This community is super wholesome, every time someone dies there is a big celebration with music that proceeds into the cemetery. The only downside is women are very unlikely to be chosen for these positions of power. They are more likely to be chosen for a position in the Museum committee. Okay I am done geeking out about governance…unless you’re not, just comment below.
2. Arts & Crafts: Textiles
This community still practices their ancient art of weaving carpets. If you are looking for high quality carpets or tapestries, this is the place. I know this may not sound magical, but you will agree when you see the hours and labor it takes to make one piece! And the designs are truly psychedelic.
Many families work collectively to produce beautifully-handcrafted pieces throughout the year. Some of them even work in cooperatives! One piece may take up to three months. Every day you can walk into a certain part of town close to the market where you will see about four stands. Here, the community takes turn showing off their work to visitors. And, families rotate stands. At some point every group gets the main stage/stand which even includes a loom where they show you the weaving process from beginning to end.
You can find some of these beautiful pieces at @Wa.Haka’s cooperative community store. You will find earrings, shirts, candles, purses, and rugs, plus workshops and other events. We are super honored to say @DeathisABusiness performed for the community at @wa.haka! We will post that performance in the near future.
You will find wonderful cafes in Teotitlán, among them @CafeVid. This place is actually the reason why I chose to stay in Teotitlán for a month.
When Death Is A Business performed at WaHaka, one of the event’s sponsors was the co-founder of CafeVid, Erika Mendoza. I fell in love with her founding story of CafeVid, their struggles, and their moments of success. You can check out the interview here.
So I contacted her once I was back in the US and decided to do a collaboration: I lived in Teotitlan Del Valle for about a month, provided childcare for a beautiful being named Valeria, and helped open, close and clean at the cafe. It was a powerful experience, and I’m super grateful for this.
I also took a trip to a beautiful coffee farm, @CafeYukuTI, with Erika. I’ll post more about this later.
If you are in Teotitlan Del Valle, CafeVid is a must! At night this place lights up and offers the town’s most delicious crepes, tea, sandwiches and of course, coffee!
4. The Market
Teotitlán Del Valle has one of the most complete community markets. If you’re in the US you’ve probably experienced a farmer’s market… but once you’re in Mexico the markets are a whole other vibe!
I had some of the best juices in the Teotitlán Del Valle Market from a wonderful lady, Juanita. During my stay I had a terrible headache, with no explanation– I didn’t even drink alcohol. Juanita made me a wonderful concoction I will always remember: aloe vera and papaya. She is a healer!
She even took me on a hike to the sacred rock of El Pichacho where community members go together on New Years to leave offerings for the year to come! This hike is exhausting, but worth it.
You will find fresh fruits, veggies, flowers, hot bread, hot food, and more every morning! Get there early because the market closes early by 3:00pm.
Teotitlán Del Valle has a great gym that was started by a local, who competed and obtained the titles of:
Mr. Oaxaca Juvenil 2018-2019
And Mr. Mexico Juvenil 2019
Here you’ll find a great community of people trying to get fit and live their best lives, as well as some good reliable machines. And you will most likely meet the founder himself, @OmarLazo. It’s really astounding the type of community this guy has created. I was surprised to find such a well-equipped gym in a city with no cellular service. He has machines that you will only find in Planet Fitness back in the US!
The state of Oaxaca, Mexico is known for its delicious mezcal. And let me tell ya’ll, mezcal is different from regular alcohol you get in the US. This shit is sacred, and honestly just as sacred as my green lady Mary Jane.
It is derived from one of the many different varieties of agave cacti, and goes through a complex process of harvest, cooking, distillation, and aging that allows it to become the magic that it is. I will post more about this at a later point: we were actually able to meet and learn from a master Mezcalera maker.
And yes, fun fact: tequila is a kind of mezcal. The reason why it’s called tequila is similar to why Bordeaux wine is called “Bordeaux”: because it is produced in the Bordeaux region of southwest France. Tequila is a type of mezcal produced from the blue agave plant in the town of Tequila, Jalisco.
If you are looking for a city that is both modern and ancient, this is the place.
Ask us to connect you with a hospitable local family. We encourage people to come to us for accommodation recommendations rather than go to AirBnb. This allows for a deeper understanding of your environment.
I hope this aids your travels, or at least paints a picture of our beautiful world for you.