Mexico, Oaxaca: Food and Female Empowerment

The experience in Oaxaca (Mexico) is still fresh in my mind. My first trip away from my daughter was stressful. I felt guilty and anxious. Is it okay to travel again? Did I deserve it? Does it still matter to me that the world is important when I have a greater part of my heart at home?

Each second was worth it.

The Purposeful Nomad: We traveled with Intention to explore the spirit of Oaxaca’s women, who celebrated their Zaptoec heritage and showcased their artisan skills. This simplifies everything that is involved in these communities. They are a result of true grit, passion, and a desire to thrive in their personal and professional lives.

Every visit revealed the incredible stories, failures, and triumphs each woman-owned business has experienced. I was humbled to be invited into families, and I felt encouraged to pursue my passions as a mom.

The Purposeful Nomad team also provided amazing city tours, food and history along with plenty of fun throughout the trip. It’s impossible to do it all. But here’s an overview of Oaxaca and the rest of Mexico!

Respecting the past

Zona Arqueologica Dainzu

This beautiful spot is sometimes overlooked. It is a sacred site for women and the divine feminine energy. I encourage everyone to visit respectfully and to feel a connection with the land and people. You should be aware that Dainzu may close to the public at times. If you decide to venture out on your own, make sure to have an alternative plan.

We were able to embrace a welcoming ceremony and offer in this space thanks to Purposeful Nomad. We asked as a group for a positive experience and learned from this special trip.

Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman

Since millennia in Oaxaca, life has been about spirituality and the church. The indigenous traditions are not always respected, but the Catholics are more often. Oaxaca was introduced to Christianity by the Spanish in 1537. It is full of fascinating stories about the struggle of Oaxacqueno people to survive the ongoing invasions by Europeans and the Aztec neighbors.

Benito Juarez (Oaxacaqueno) created new laws to seperate church and state. He was 26th president of Mexico, and the first indigenous leader. The Catholics did not like this at all! That led to the independence talks in Mexico, which shaped the Oaxaca melting pot.

Our highly-skilled guide Flor shared her knowledge about the past of the city in a partnership with ONCE Journeys. These stories are still being told by her.

While hearing Oaxaca’s history, we visited several churches, including The Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman. It is the central church and square of the city. It is also an official UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes all of Oaxaca City’s historic Oaxaca City.

Staying central

El Diablo y la Sandia

Oaxaca makes taking photos easy. It’s great to take photos while walking through the old town or staying at beautiful boutique hotels. The ideal sanctuary in Oaxaca City was chosen by Purposeful Nomad as El Diablo y la Sandia (The Devil and the Watermelon). There are two properties. I was at Boca del Monte, which has courtyards full of flora, and a family-style lobby/breakfast. You can walk a few minutes to get to the heart of downtown, while your room is a welcome respite from a long day of sightseeing. It was wonderful.

Mole mole mole!

Mole was created in Oaxaca. You’ve probably had mole. It’s a rich, dark brown sauce with a hint chocolate flavor. Mole can be made in many Oaxacan cuisines. It comes in a variety of colors, from a jet-black or deep red color to bright yellows and greens.

These are just a few of the ingredients that go into moles. Of course, there are many more unexpected flavors.

  • Tomatoes
  • Chilies
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cinnamon
  • Toasted bread
  • Chocolate
  • Sugar
  • Thyme

There are many places to order mole dishes in the city. However, you can also learn about the process in neighboring villages. We learned from one family that roasting the chiles can take up to a week, especially if you are cooking for large groups.

If you are looking for mole products, the Oaxaca city market is the place to go. There are many good and bad souvenirs in this market, but the quality of local crafts and goods far outweighs imports. You will find everything you need, from stone chile grinders and beautiful embroidered dresses to aprons.

Enjoy more time celebrating the good things

El Sabor de Cecy

You can enjoy a few fine dining experiences that include Oaxacan delights. But don’t forget to grab a quick taco! You might even want to order two! A tiny restaurant, El Sabor de Cecy is located near the hotel. It serves delicious tacos made with fresh ingredients right in front your eyes. It was wonderful to eat the squash blossoms and soft cheese right there at the counter.

Levadura de Olla

This restaurant featured the Mexican tomato in all its colorful forms, along with a rainbow-like appetizer. As you waited for your food, you could see the entire table of tomatoes in the front room while a server explained how Oaxacan cuisine uses them. He exclaimed, “Tomatoes can be one of the most stubborn fruits there is!”

The starters also included crickets. Although insects might seem new to you, people have been eating them for hundreds of years. Because of its health and protein benefits, cricket flour is becoming more popular. Your guacamole can be served with a side dish of deep-fried creatures.

Hierba Dulce

Hierba Dulce is the city’s pride and joy. Many traditional cooking styles are featured on the all-vegan menu. They pride themselves in using hyper-local ingredients to combat over-industrialization of agriculture. Enjoy a delicious meal in the courtyard, and don’t forget to try the homemade mole and fresh salsas.

Puro Burro

The relaxed atmosphere makes it feel a bit more local than other nearby establishments. A steak burrito was served with cold beer and was a great late-night meal that we could enjoy from our hotel’s walking distance.

Oaxaca Brewing Company

Oaxaca, like most major cities is also on the beer brewery train. You shouldn’t order wine at Oaxaca like I did. The beers are delicious and the atmosphere is intimate.

Sur a Norte

Oaxaca has a vibrant cocktail scene, particularly at the rooftop bars located near the main church square. Take in the views and enjoy a drink or two under the shade for a bird’s eye view of the city.


This rooftop bar/restaurant is a bit quirky and fun. It serves up delicious cocktails and delicious fusion-inspired food.

La Olla

This is a cute place where you can sample more moles and fresh seafood. You can also find vegan options and spicy margaritas here. It is a nice place to eat early in the morning, and it is away from all the noise.


This is the place to go if you’re looking for a sweets and coffee fix. Be sure to get there early to get the best selection, as they often have a long line. If you’re a painstakingly American, they do have bottled cold-brew coffee. They also offer delicious pastries and bottled cold-brew coffee. We stopped at the market once more in the evening, and I brought home mezcal and Tejate chocolates. Tejate is a non-alcoholic cacao and corn drink. It was not my favorite, but it was delicious as a truffle!

Supporting local Women

After all the delicious Oaxaca City offers, it would be a big mistake to not explore beyond its borders. I wish I could have covered every experience of the whirlwind trip. These are just a few of many wonderful artisans and business people we met.

You can read the entire story on Crooked Flight.

Mujeres del Barro Rojo

The clay is collected from nearby mountains and transformed into beautiful works of art. The story of the founder was full of drama and success. She broke away from village norms to become a successful businesswoman and a mother. The ceramic products she sells benefit her extended family, as it is a fully-fledged business using traditional crafting techniques. Her pieces are featured in museums, and some of her wares can be purchased at her huge home and workshop.


In Mexico, candles play an important role in many matrimonial events. These intricate candles, which are carved and dipped in Oaxaca, represent the love that a husband has for his (traditionally married) bride-to be. These candles are made by women-owned businesses. The wax is then repurposed for future use. The art of candle-making has been passed down through generations. Each generation plays a part in the creation process. You can also bring home small candles for your suitcases if you visit the workshop.

Decadent chocolate

It takes time to achieve good things, right? The results of a local chocolate maker were amazing. We spent the morning watching them work. Cacao beans are roasted on an open flame and then hand-ground into a superfine paste. When the chocolate turns shiny, you know it’s done! You can also add cinnamon sticks and lots of sugar. Once the block of drinking chocolate has dried, it can be used to make delicious and rich chocolate beverages that can be enjoyed throughout Oaxaca. We were informed by the woman that she used slightly less sugar for tourists because locals love their sweet drinks.

Rugs in vibrant colors

The Vida Nueva Women’s Weaving Cooperative on Crooked Flight is the story I tell. This is a must-visit place if you’re in Oaxaca City. The Oaxacaquenos weave these beautiful rugs using natural wool and dyes. This women-owned business was founded in 1980 by two women who took over the management of the craft. They now use the profits to support the village’s development.

Purposeful Traveler: Intention

PurposefulNomad offers a unique opportunity to experience a similar experience in Mexico, or any other global destination. Although rates and what is included can vary, it is so worth trusting Caitlin and her team around the globe to plan your trip.

This guide is only the tip of an iceberg, it’s amazing! We went deeper into the mountains to enjoy a traditional cacao ceremony, visit mezcal distilleries, and take in the stunning natural beauty of Mexico.

The Purposeful Nomad also offers other journeys, including the Galapagos (a coed trip), Indonesia and Greece in 2022. You can also plan for future trips to India and Morocco in 2023.

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