Culture / Travel

Oaxaca with Cecilia Marquez

BY // 05.23.15

Managing a boutique that specializes in small luxuries from around the world is the perfect excuse to travel. So when Cecilia Marquez, creative director for Saint Cloud, needed to stock up on goods for the store, she headed to Oaxaca, one of her favorite places in the world. Here’s a peek into Marquez’s Mexican adventure — half for work, half for pleasure.

Oaxaca stays warm almost year-round, so I packed a lot of breezy Lemlem caftans and my favorite woven straw Clyde hat, which I wore every day.

Smart Water, Ilia moisturizing lip conditioner and Grown Alchemist intensive hand cream. Anything to stay hydrated!

I rented an apartment right behind the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in the heart of the city. It had a beautiful rooftop patio that overlooked the ethno-botanic gardens right across the street. We drank our coffee there every morning. The gardens feature native cacti and succulents from the state of Oaxaca. They were partially designed by the Oaxacan artist Francisco Toledo and housed on the site of a former monastery behind Santo Domingo. I strongly recommend scheduling a tour if you visit.

Our favorite restaurant was Casa Oaxaca — we loved their mole and cocktails, so much we ate there four times.

We visited several weavers in their studios and also went to all the local markets to look for baskets, chocolate and mole to bring back. Our favorite market was Viente De Noviembre — it’s huge.

We spent half a day visiting the pre-Columbian Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban, right outside the city. It is a beautifully preserved site, and it was so relaxing and peaceful hiking there.

We were fortunate enough to meet the most important textile preservationist working in Mexico right now, Remigio Mestes. We learned so much about the history of Oaxacan weavers and their techniques. Our favorite discovery was the running fuchsia dye from the remote Santiago Ixtayutla village. The weavers sustainably harvest the dye from sea snails, called purpura panza, who are then returned to the water. The dye is used for the threads they create patterns with on fabric and garments and is left unfixed so that it will bleed when exposed to water. This process is purposeful, as their patron saint wears a garment stained with running blood. Ixtayultla is the only place in the world where this process is used, and it is incredibly remote and difficult to reach.

We visited a “mescal academy” called Mezcaloteca. They are a nonprofit dedicated to preserving traditional mescal varieties, especially those produced in quantities so small they are not generally bottled and sold. You have to make an appointment, and they provide you with three different types of mescal to try. While you sample them, the staff explains where each mescal came from and what type of maguey plant it was distilled from. There are limited quantities available for purchase, and we stocked up on as many as we could fit in our luggage. It was a really special experience where we got to learn about the individual producers from all over the state of Oaxaca and the history and ceremonial uses for mescal.

I have already been back three times since October!

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