Day 3 — Details

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Day 3

Pyramids, Monasteries & Pottery

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks & Beverages

Enjoy another delicious breakfast in the hotel this morning!

Chocolate con agua — hot chocolate made with water — makes a great start to your day. In Oaxaca, chocolate isn’t just an occasional treat but an essential part of the everyday diet. You can buy Oaxacan chocolate in shops and stalls all over the city — and even mix your own custom blend of cacao, almonds, cinnamon, and vanilla!  

The cultivation, consumption, and cultural use of cacao were extensive in Mesoamerica — Mexico and Central America — where the cacao tree is native. The earliest use of chocolate dates back more than 3,500 years. The seeds once were so valued that they were used as a form of currency!

The Aztecs called it xocoatl and believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl — the feathered god of wisdom — whom they believed had been condemned by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans. 

Until the 16th century and the conquest of Mexico, the cacao tree was wholly unknown to Europeans.

So, drink up as we have a busy day today of history, art, great food, and creativity!

Our Academic Exploration today takes us to the pyramids of Monte Albán — founded in 500 BCE — one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica and the pre-eminent Zapotec sociopolitical and economic center for close to a thousand years. 

You’ll learn the history of Monte Albán including the tombs, the famous Los Danzantes (Dancers) carvings, the ball court, and the astronomical observatory.

You’ll also have free time to explore the fascinating ruins on your own to take those perfect photographs of this amazing and historic spot.

The next stop on our Academic Exploration is the majestic Ex-monastery of Santiago Apóstol in the town of Culiapan de Guerrero.  

This historically important Spanish Colonial complex, never fully finished, dates from around 1550 and boasts some of the most important frescoes in Mexico. These murals depict a merging of indigenous beliefs and Spanish Roman Catholicism as a part of the evangelization of the local Mixtec and Zapotec people. It was here where General Vicente Guerrero, a president of Mexico, was executed on February 14, 1831.

Today’s lunch on our Academic Exploration is at La Capilla de Zaachila — a local institution not far from Oaxaca City that can accommodate up to 3,000 people in connected patios at large wooden tables under a giant thatched roof. It has the biggest open outdoor kitchen you’ll ever see! Best of all, the food — a sumptuous array of regional dishes — is out of this world. 

We’ll eat family style so you can savor the local specialty — Oaxacan mole sauce. This delicious, world-renowned sauce — served over chicken or turkey — is made from chiles, nuts, chocolate, seeds, and spices all ground into a thick paste and simmered with chicken broth and tomatoes. There is nothing quite like it — and Oaxaca state is home to 7 different varieties and colors of mole!

We’ll also enjoy homemade cold, refreshing horchata and aguas frescas blended from local fruits.

You’ll want to explore the verdant, charming grounds and take photos to capture this unforgettable, one-of-a-kind establishment.

The last stop on today’s Academic Exploration takes us to the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec, famous for its barro negro — black clay pottery that is one of the most prized in all the Mexican pottery arts.

The only place in the world with this black clay is this area of Oaxaca. You’ll see how it’s all done — how the shaped clay pieces, once dried, are polished with quartz to compress the surface so that after firing, the once dull gray pottery emerges shiny and black.

Next, comes the real fun!  

You’ll become a master potter yourself as you learn how to make — with your own hands — a small clay box with a lid, plus another creation of your own imagination and design.

We know artists need sustenance, so we’ll have tasty beverages and snacks to keep your creative spirits thriving!

We’ll pop back to this location one other time — once your pottery has dried — to embellish your work with designs and polish them to a lustrous black.

Once the items are fired, they’ll be delivered to the hotel so you’ll have a lasting memory of Oaxaca of your own creation in prized barro negro!

Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant that’s a favorite with Oaxacans for tacos al pastor — a popular Mexican dish brought by Lebanese immigrants and based on shawarma, or grilled meats.

The grilled meats are thinly sliced, and served on corn tortillas with a fantastic array of delicious sauces and salsas!

You’ll enjoy a selection of tacos, beverages, and your choice of a delicious dessert.

¡Buen provecho!

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