Oaxaca — Culture

“A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Oaxaca's diverse cultural tapestry is amazing ...


intelli.tours Academic journeys celebrate the diverse and vibrant culture of Oaxaca with daily explorations, activities, and events that highlight the rich cultural tapestry that defines this beautiful city and its people.  

As the Mexican state with the largest indigenous population, Oaxaca is a diverse mosaic of people and languages replete with historical, artistic, and culinary cultural riches found nowhere else in the world.

For students, our journeys bring the fascinating culture of Oaxaca to life with hands-on involvement, personal connections with the people, celebrations of cultural expressions, and superb gastronomy — all of which allow students to become a part of the beauty and depth of the cultural richness and creative spirit of the proud Oaxacan people.

We have highlighted here the some specific cultural components before and during our journeys; however, as culture truly is a part of everything, we invite you to explore the additional links at the bottom of the page for a deeper understanding of the cultural connections on journeys to Oaxaca.

Before the Journey
Learn Before You Go!

Before departure, via engaging and interactive learning modules, students will explore the people of Mexico and their cultures. Students will gain perspective into the similarities and differences between the many native peoples of Mexico and how the numerous indigenous groups who have passed through the area and called the region home have shaped Oaxaca through language, art, food, and more.

During the Journey
The Elements of Culture

intelli.tours Academic knows that culture describes a certain set of customs, ideas, and social behaviors of people in a society. We also know that one’s personal culture is an important component of one’s individual identity.

As Oaxaca is a repository of multiple cultures, we focus our journeys on these important cultural components:

  • Indigenous and pre-Hispanic
  • Spanish Colonial
  • Modern Oaxacan
  • Modern Mexican

We also focus on these essential questions relative to culture:

  • What is culture?
  • What is the purpose of culture?
  • What your personal culture and how is it similar to or different from your societal culture?
  • What culture do you or your family have that is different from others in your community?
  • What are the hallmarks of pre-Hispanic culture in Oaxaca?
  • What are the hallmarks of Spanish Colonial culture in Oaxaca?
  • How did religion play a role in the merging of pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial cultures?
  • What are some examples of where pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial cultures merged?
  • How has contemporary Oaxacan culture been influenced by pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial traditions and cultures?
  • How are pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial cultures different from or similar to U.S. Native American and British Colonial cultures?
  • What examples of Oaxacan culture have you seen here that you don’t see in the U.S.?
  • What are the consequences on people and societies when they lose their cultures or have another culture imposed on them?
  • What examples of culture being lost or imposed on do you see in U.S. society today?
  • What is cultural appropriation and what are its effects on individuals and society?
  • Why do we tend to believe that one must lose or repress one’s own culture to become a part of another culture? Is this true, fair, right, or just?
A Few Specifics

Art is an omnipresent cultural reality in Oaxaca, from pre-Hispanic expressions to indigenous crafts to brightly painted buildings to contemporary amalgams of the past and the present.

Our journeys include these cultural activities focused on art:

  • We explore the work of Rodolfo Morales — a Zapotec muralist in the tradition of  Diego Rivera — whose work, while renown in artistic circles, is really 0nly found in the city of Octolán de Morelos.
  • We visit the village that produces Oaxaca’s famous black pottery — the most prized of Mexico’s pottery arts. Students will get hands-on instruction and return home with two pieces of their own inspiration and creation.
  • We travel to a village renowned for alebrijes — the hand-carved and intricately painted whimsical creatures famously from Oaxaca. Students take a class with master painters of alebrijes and create their own stunning technicolor creature to take home.
  • We visit local artists’ galleries in Oaxaca to meet the artists and hear of the inspirations and work.
  • We discover the great art museums of Oaxaca with collections from all periods of Mexican history from  pre-Hispanic to Spanish Colonial to modern day.
  • We paint a large-scale mural — on a local village’s main street — designed by a local artist, immersing ourselves in the historically important mural heritage of Mexico as we provide invaluable community service.

Dance is ever-present in Oaxaca. It is not uncommon to see groups of young people outdoors throughout the city practicing local folk dances as they prepare for the annual Guelaguetza dance festival, a significant cultural event in Oaxaca.

Our journeys include these cultural activities focused on dance:

  • We attend a Guelaguetza show at the Quinta Real Oaxaca Hotel. Over 75 dancers deliver an amazing recreation of the annual festival in the former sanctuary of this beautifully renovated 16th-century convent-turned-luxury hotel.
  • We plan our evening walks before dinner to include many of the spots where local dancers are apt to be rehearsing, providing us with a sneak preview of their amazing dancing skills as they prepare for their annual world-class shows.

Food, too, is front and center everywhere in Oaxaca. In fact, many consider Oaxaca to be the culinary capital of Mexico given its fame as the home of the 7 mole sauces, which range from green to red to brown to yellow and are made with a bewildering array of ingredients, including chiles only found in Oaxaca, freshly ground chocolate, nuts, and a mélange of fruits, seeds, and herbs.

Why do our journeys take food so seriously? Because food tells the story of a place and its people: cuisine is culture.

  • We enjoy a different culinary specialty at every meal — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — at specially selected dining venues known by locals as the places to go.
  • We include tastes and treats along the way so not one single sip or morsel of food or beverage is missed.
  • We put our chef’s hats on for a day of cooking in the local home in a Oaxacan village where home-chefs teach us to prepare local specialties like tamales wrapped in banana leaves and the perfect tortilla made from corn ground in the local mill and freshly cooked on a comal — the traditional round, flat griddle dating to pre-Hispanic culture.
  • We enjoy a sumptuous buffet of local and regional dishes during our evening Guelaguetza show.
  • We even have a pizza night on a rooftop terrace because it’s not only fun and tasty, it’s also enlightening to see how a familiar favorite food is prepared in another country. 

We invite you to follow the links below to explore more about learning on our journeys to Oaxaca and to discover the exciting itinerary for our educational journeys to this amazing city.