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Easter 2010,

Oaxaca is 450 kms and normally 5 hours away, but traffic was expectedly congested so I figured it’d likely take twice as long. I decided against hitchhiking right outside of Mexico City. It’s never a good idea to thumb up at by a busy toll. Everyone’s pissed after sitting too long in the crawling traffic. And as people speed by, they tell themselves there’s a good chance the car right behind may stop. Plus, Mexico City is really not the nicest city on earth to just be hanging out on the road.

I spent an hour on the bus to Puebla, and took my chance there. Within 10 minutes of getting off the bus, I got picked up by a sales rep of a national milk company. He was going all the way to Oaxaca. Great, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting more rides. But I was a little nervous, not so much thanks to the forbidding threat from my supervisors when they found out I wanted to hitchhike, but because it was my first time riding for such a long distance. I have the good habit of falling asleep if I’m in the passenger seat for more than an hour. The steady speed at which the scenery passes is a soporific lullaby to my eyes. This spells trouble when hitchhiking long distance because a/it’s rude to the stranger driver – I should keep the person company even if no conversation is required, and b/it’s not wise to be unconscious on the road. The driver was nice, but we didn’t really click so conversation was mostly cordial. Sleepiness crept up; a couple of times I did find my head jerking ahead from almost nodding off, and immediately fought back by pinching myself and biting my tongue.

We left Puebla at 9 a.m and finally crossed into Oaxaca 8 hours later. Before dropping me off at the center, the rep drove me up a hill that offered a stunning panoramic view of the city and the valley below. The city is quite compact, and typical of colonial urban planning, you can see a prominent cathedral dominating the center.

Oaxaca, the land of the native. My favorite Mexican singer-songwriter Lila Downs was born here to her Mixtec mother. It was through her heart-wrenching soul-tearing songs that I was introduced to the region’s indigenous musical heritage. I knew that the culture was living strong here, but was still surprised at the number of native speakers that I encountered.

Oaxaca valley, MexicoOaxaca valley

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