In Oaxaca, a community unchanged
In addition to the beautiful scenery, great hiking and superb food, visitors come for the annual mushroom festival, La Feria Regional del hongos silvestres, in Cuajimoloyas, which takes place over a weekend either at the end of July or early August, depending on the rains and how the mushroom crop is doing. Of the 3,500 mushroom species in the world, 2,000 of them have been found in the forests around the village. On the Saturday of the festival local guides lead groups into the forest to identify each species, with an award for the group that finds the most; in 2012, 292 species were found. On the Sunday, the collected mushrooms are on display (groups can only pick one of each species to insure their long-term survival) and local experts give talks on fungi varieties. The festival ends with a display of traditional folk dances from Oaxaca’s most famous annual festival, Guelaguetza, which typically takes place in July. Other activities include having a temascal, a pre-Hispanic wood-fired steam bath, which can be a good option at the end of a long hike.
In a unique balance, the villages have found a way to both expose and protect their way of life, sharing profits equally while avoiding mass commercialisation. In giving travellers an opportunity to witness such a traditional way of life up close, the community is ensuring that this very special place will be around for generations, and tourists, to come.
Visitors can book a trip through the Expediciones Sierra Norte website or at their office in Oaxaca City and take a local bus to any of the villages. Expediciones Sierra Norte can also help organise tours of the old mine in Amatlan, including the abandoned processing plant, the living quarters of the workers and a small part of the original tunnels.