|From tradition to Matisse: a selection of handcrafted Oaxacan rugs.|
The state tourism agency, SEDETUR, has created the Tourist Yu'u Program to promote nature-oriented tourism in the Oaxaca's Central Valley. Through this program, the first of its kind in Mexico, small tourist houses known as Tourist Yu'us have been established in nine Indian villages. These houses offer simple, authentic accomodations for travelers who wish to explore rural villages and cultures. Services provided at each Tourist Yu'u vary, but each hostel is locally operated.
The Tourist Yu'u villages are in areas that have been severely deforested and have suffered various forms of environmental deterioration. Officials from SEDETUR hope that the promotion of tourism can reintroduce a respect for local traditions, reduce stresses on the environment, and ultimately improve both living and environmental conditions. (Tourist Yu'u houses are generally the only lodgings available in the villages.) Each tourist house manages its own nursery and raises trees to help reforest the valley.
The cost for staying at a Tourist Yu'u is extremely low: $4 per person per night in a shared cabin or $4 for a campsite. The biggest obstacle for tourists will be locating the houses. The maps printed by SEDETUR are rather sketchy, so make sure you get good directions from the office in downtown Oaxaca. Contact SEDETUR at Independencia 607; (951) 6-01-23, 6-48-28, or 1-50-40; fax (951) 60984Here are some highlights of Tourist Yu'u facilities. . .
Hierve el Agua lies two hours away from Oaxaca. It's one of the most interesting geological formations in southern Mexico a rock formation with petrified waterfalls. The Tourist Yu'u facility in Hierve el Agua boasts several guest houses as well as a thermal pool with mud famed for its therapeutic and cosmetic properties.
El Tlacolula is the central town in the Tlacolula Valley. The valley is home to more than 60,000 Indians who speak the Zapotec language, and the town is home to more than 10,000 people. Rough residential dwellings are interspersed with numerous colonial buildings. The Sunday market, reported to be one of the oldest in Mesoamerica, is also the area's largest.
San Bartolome Quialana is a small community of 2,500 people. The villagers make nets from the fibers of the agave and distinct black and white woolen blankets.
Santa Ana del Valle is downhill from Quialana, 34 kilometers (22 miles) from Oaxaca on Highway 190. The villagers earn their living from agriculture and weaving. The town has a community museum with various archaeological objects from the Zapotec period, as well as exhibits on the local experience of the Mexican Revolution, the Danza de la Pluma (Feather Dance), and traditional Zapotec weaving techniques using natural dyes.
Teotitlan del Valle is world-famous for its traditional woven wool blankets. Natural dyes, derived from local plants and minerals, are slowly being replaced by cheaper artificial colors. The cochineal insect, for example, which produces a somber red, is very expensive, and consumers have asked for colors brighter than those the squashed bug can provide. In recent years weavers have begun to create rug versions of paintings by Picasso, Matisse, and Diego Rivera. If you have the time, the weavers can even work from a photograph to produce a personalized pattern.
Benito Juarez is a mountain community and the only Tourist Yu'u location that is not in the Central Valley. The town's unique health clinic harvests medicinal plants from its small garden. A 30-minute walk takes you to El Mirador, which offers a stunning view of the Oaxaca Valley and, to the northeast, a glimpse of Pico de Orizaba, Mexico's highest mountain. In the same mountain range, you can also visit the Chinantec Indian communities of Santiago or Comaltepec. Part of this area is a Pleistocene refuge, formed during the last ice age. Within the area are diverse arrays of flora and fauna, although forestry threatens the region. Particularly destructive is"high grading," which harvests the best timber and leaves the rest to regenerate, impoverishing the forest. With the pines cleared, scrubs invade the open spaces and disallow natural pine regeneration.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication