One Border – Two Very Different Countries

We are currently in Oaxaca – in the southwest of Mexico.

Our travels, so far

Our travels, so far

We spent the last week in Teotithuacan, site of some of the largest pyramids built-in pre-hispanic Mexico, and then Mexico City itself. Mexico City, by the way, was not at all what I expected: there was hardly any smog, the traffic was manageable, the streets were clean – a great visit !

Oaxaca is known for its food, its indigenous population and their cultures, crafts, and folk arts. Karen and I love the city and the surrounding area, and, as has become a hallmark of this Mexican trip, we have extended our stay, and will be in the area for around two weeks.

If you are in Mexico, we highly recommend Oaxaca, but that’s not what I wanted to write about. Since we entered Mexico, and in particular since we left the beautiful beaches and headed inland, Karen and I have been discussing whether there is anywhere in the world where one border separates two so dissimilar countries. Sure, crossing any border takes you from one country to the next. But. You have border crossings like US / Canada, or Sweden / Norway, where yes, the countries are different, but not that much. And then there is the US / Mexico border. Wow.

Mexico and the US are just so different – culture, people. income levels, cleanliness, traffic, food, markets. This is Karen’s second visit to Mexico; her first was a spring break trip in college to Cancun (or Miami Beach with a different Spanish accent…). If you, dear reader, have no other experience of Mexico than Cancun, then, as Bachman Turner Overdrive would say: You ain’t seen nothing yet. Come to Oaxaca.

I should point out that when I say Mexico is different, that different does not imply bad. Many times, different implies good, and as some previous blog posts have described, there are  places in Mexico where we have spontaneously said: “We could live here” – we’ve added Oaxaca to that list.

Here are some pictures showing the difference – the pics are from the Friday market in Ocotlan, and the Sunday market in Tlacolula – small villages close to Oaxaca. Can you imagine these markets in the US?


Shopping for veggies



A meat stand. I love the meat, but do have a hard time looking at it...

Meat… (I love the meat, but do have a hard time looking at it…)

Buying flip flops

Flip Flops…



As always, the street food is great…

Street food

Street food

A tostada - street food

A tostada – street food

The meat aisle

The meat aisle

After you buy your meat, you can have it grilled on the spot

After you buy your meat, you can have it grilled on the spot

Som of the indigenous faces…





The differences are extraordinary, and we are lucky that Mexico is so close. Hopefully more Americans will look past the grim news about the drug violence and come visit this amazing country.


4 thoughts on “One Border – Two Very Different Countries

  1. My brother in law is from Oaxaca! My sister spent years living there and I have had the opportunity to visit twice – my fav spots are the Zocolo and the Mercado (= mecca for me). Don’t know if you’ve discovered the black clay pottery or the Alabrehes (sp? hand painted wooden carvings), both are unique to the area. I’m sure you don’t have lots of room for purchased items, but I especially love the alabrehes and even visited the little town where most originate from. It was a bus ride from the outskirts of downtown, and I would highly recommend it – if anything to see so many all at once and to meet some of the artists. Have fun!! Besos!

    And yes, yes to your question about the border

    • Hey P! We have been to many of the surrounding neighborhoods including Tilcajete (where they make the albrijes) and bought quite a few of them as gifts – and a few for me too!). We also went to Teotitlan yesterday where they process the wool, dye the skeins (naturally), and weave beautiful rugs. Oh I could have spent a fortune!! We adore the markets and especially liked the one in Ocotlan – just south of the black pottery and alebrije villages. We will be heading up to the “pueblos mancomunados” in the mountains. So much to do! Besos a todos!

  2. oh more more more on Oaxaca! When I think of Mexico, that is the one place I’ve always heard of that I have wanted to visit, keep feeding the dream. As for the border — that is a great question, should be raised in schoolrooms around this country at different grade levels. I’m going to toss it out to my 89-yr-old mom for her discussion group, they’re a well traveled bunch.

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