Loosen up with a Styrofoam cup

A short history of Oaxaca City, Mexico — in 150(ish) words

Oaxaca City is everything Mexico City is not: restrained in ambition, gentle on the senses, forgiving to the uninitiated, human scale.

Its placid plazas, attractive architecture (modern and vernacular) and brightly-coloured facades — made spirited with hand-painted advertisements, logos and typefaces — practically beg you to stay on the streets, strolling from one incredible food experience to another. It’s the country’s culinary capital, after all.

Early morning churros dunked into frothy hot chocolate made traditionally by hand. Styrofoam cupfuls of steaming esquites, the perfectly balanced citrusy-salty-spicy-creamy mix of grilled corn, crumbled cheese, lime juice, mayonnaise and chile sauces. Trays of tortillas and various grilled meats and vegetables amidst clouds of smoke and serenading guitars at the central market. (Not to mention regional specialties like moletlayudas and queso Oaxaca, the highly-addictive stringy cheese that alone is worth the trip.)

Oaxaca City does share one thing with Mexico City: its in-your-face attitude. But for Oaxaca, it’s meant to be taken literally.

Photos by Mark Bessoudo