In the eastern arm of the Oaxaca valley, nudging the Sierra Madre Mountains is TeotitlĂˇn del Valle, worth the half-hour side trip from Oaxaca. Along the 4 kilometer turnoff from Highway 190 into town are artisan shops where youâ€™ll see the centuries-old craft of loom weaving, a tradition kept alive by virtually all of the town's 5,600 inhabitants. Initially a Zapotec settlement, TeotitlĂˇnâ€™s culture continues not only in the weaving, but also in the Zapotec language, wedding and funeral customs and the seemingly-illogical practice of local time-setting, an hour different from nearby Oaxaca. Thatâ€™s good to know as you wait for the local museum to open.
At the heart of TeotitlĂˇn is the church of the Virgen of the Nativity, built by Spaniards over a temple of the conquered Zapotecs, the ancient stones still visible in the churchâ€™s foundation. Alongside the church is an artisan market where stalls of wool carpets, cotton tablecloths and bedspreads vie for tourist dollars.
Also in the market plaza is the museum, well-stocked for a town of this size. Archeological finds line one wall, while another section explains the processes involved in the townâ€™s main enterprise, tapetes. A separate room displays photos and costumes from the regionâ€™s Dance of the Feathered Headdress, and toward the exit, traditional wedding customs are shown in tableaux and murals. Ten pesos ($0.75) will get you in, Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., local time.
Youâ€™ll likely be invited to a family home by a friendly seĂ±ora to watch a demonstration of tapete-making with natural dyes. If your Spanish is good, take her up on the offer, otherwise, seek out the English version at one of the larger studios on the road into town: Rosario at El Tono de la Cochinilla or Demetrio at Las CĂşpulas welcome visitors.
Las CĂşpulas is also a restaurant and Bed and Breakfast, handy for those taking a workshop in natural dyeing or weaving with Demetrio. If youâ€™re hungry while in town, El Descanso on the main drag will treat your taste buds to Oaxacan fare while you enjoy the woven eye-candy on the walls. These rugs and purses are also for sale in the gift shop off the main dining room. El Descanso, as its name suggests, provides lodging in the form of a three bedroom apartment above the restaurant and three off-site bungalows.
Las Granadas B&B a few blocks away, combines simple, but restful accommodation with home-cooked breakfasts.
Other places nearby Teotitlan Del Valle: San CristĂłbal de las Casas, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Oaxaca, Ocosingo, Santo Tomas Jalietza, Comitan De Dominguez, Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, Palenque, ToninĂˇ (ruins) and Puerto Escondido.