During our recent spring break, five students had the unique opportunity to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico with Oakwood’s Spanish language teachers, Clara Crosby and Stew Diaz. The group spent March 3rd -12th exploring Mexico with Sol Abroad through homestays with families, engaging in daily Spanish classes at the University in Oaxaca, taking excursions and outings around the city and region, and volunteering through a service learning project at a children's library housed in an old train station.
They had many opportunities to take advantage of all that the fascinating colonial city of Oaxaca and its surrounding area have to offer. The highland city is surrounded by lush mountains and indigenous villages where they were able to explore the pre-Hispanic past of the area. Students and faculty visited the ruins of Monte Alban and Santo Domingo Cathedral and Museum and hiked to and swam in the hot springs Hierve el Aqua.
Perhaps the most enriching part of the trip was the personal contact students had with people living in Oaxaca. They played fútbol (soccer) and Jenga with the local children, learned salsa dancing, met with university students, and got to visit an archaeological site in Zaachila with one of their host families who went out of their way to make the group feel comfortable and learn as much as they could about Oaxaca. At la Universidad Autonoma Benito Juarez de Oaxaca, the group took part in a time-honored local tradition called "las Aquas" wherein each Department hosted a different music and refreshment stand. They also took a cooking class, learning everything from how to buy ingredients at a local mercado (market), to how to make tortillas, fajitas, guacamole and aqua de jamaica (hibiscus water, a favorite local drink).
Other highlights of the trip included celebrating the 18th birthday of Oakwood senior Taji Parker with his host family and connecting with Hannah Arnowitz, the sister of current senior Ana Alexander, who works with weavers in Teotitlán del Valle, a town near Oaxaca. Hannah generously shared her extensive knowledge about Oaxacan weaving traditions with the group and was able to bring them to meet personally with local families and learn directly about many aspects of weaving and dyeing wool.
Leaving behind the cold of the Hudson Valley for ten days, this intrepid group of students and faculty truly immersed themselves in Mexican culture, gaining invaluable perspective on life thousands of miles away in a historic city on the foothills of the Sierra Madre.