Oaxaca life

Cultivating Culture in Oaxaca

Current exhibition at El Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo.
The well-curated space at El Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo.

Words and photographs by Ehren Seeland

From dance and film festivals to a myriad of art exhibitions, the city of Oaxaca is teeming with cultural offerings. Diligent ones can arrange bounteous weekly schedules via Que Pasa Oaxaca and Oaxaca Calendar, while the spontaneous can easily stumble upon more options than one is able to ingest in the span of a day. As with all lists, this is a mere introduction, however noted below is a range of cultural choices to provide an inaugural taste of the area.

Peering into the current exhibition at MACO from the street.
Peering into the current exhibition at MACO from the street.

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca
Housed in a historical colonial building on the buzzing walking street of Calle Macedonio Alcalá (between Murguia and Morelos), this 17th century family home was transformed into MACO in 1992. Today, the space plays host to a rotating mix of contemporary paintings, photographs and art installations by Oaxacan and international artists. Given that this is one of the oldest buildings in the city, MACO appeals both to the contemporary art palate while also providing intimate insight into local architecture.

A local vendor rests outside of Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca.
A local vendor rests outside of Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca.

Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca
The largest collection of art, design and media books, magazines and periodicals can be found in this library, which sits across from Santo Domingo church in the city center. There is no fee to peruse the extensive collection at AIGO, and for those with a little time, a lovely courtyard topped with fuchsia blooms and birdsong is available for reading that will leave one feeling like they’ve dropped into paradise.

A street view of the emerald-capped Teatro Macedonio Alcalá.
A street view of the emerald-capped Teatro Macedonio Alcalá.

Teatro Macedonio Alcalá
Hands down one of the most beautiful interiors in the city, this venue is named after Macedonio Alcalá Prieto, a musician from Oaxaca who died in 1869. Gilded finishes and plush velvet surround patrons who take in everything from films to live music performances. Visitors can also book a tour (Spanish speaking only) in order to learn more about the architecture of the space.

Movie buffs will want to look into the Oaxaca Film Festival from October 9 – 17, 2015. Make sure to check out Alicia en el País de María, as proceeds from the tickets, which are 100 pesos each, are directly donated to two local organizations, including Fundación En Vía and Hijos de la Luna. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, and also directly from En Vía staff.

El Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo
This building dates back to 1529 and previously housed the first Dominican convent in Oaxaca. After six years of restoration, the San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center was born. San Pablo currently offers courses, exhibitions and workshops, with a mandate to promote the indigenous languages and culture of the state. The location includes a reading room for children, a handful of exhibition areas, a restaurant, café, various classrooms and a charming outdoor space.

Ready for customers at La Jicara Café.
Ready for customers at La Jicara Café.

La Jícara Librespacio Cultural
Those with a penchant for art books, magazines and fine food will appreciate the set up of this venue which includes a creative bookstore for children and one for adults, intriguing independent magazines, along with a lovely outdoor café that serves a freshly prepared 3-course daily menu for 90 pesos, along with a la carte items from the regular menu. Both menus can be found on the main page in the website link above.

While this list of destinations is entirely located within the center, in the interest of walkability, the valley area just outside of the city is also an amazing venue to explore in order to get a true taste of local art and culture. Teotitlán del Valle organizes community celebrations including the Danza de la Pluma, while San Miguel del Valle, Santo Domingo Tomaltepec and other En Vía communities also offer events throughout the year – enough to fill more than a week of in a life, no doubt.

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