One of the delights of visiting the mountain city of Oaxaca is relaxing in a sidewalk caf? along the zocalo, sipping a steaming cup of rich hot chocolate, and watching the pedestrian parade. On any given afternoon, the parade may include indigenous peoples dressed in colorful regional costumes, businessmen in slacks and shirts, and hombres in baggy white pants and straw hats.
The human parade reflects Oaxaca's synthesis of the ancient and modern. A colonial city of narrow streets with a well-preserved city center, Oaxaca's highlights include a number of cultural offerings -- theater, majestic churches, a symphony orchestra -- as well as museums filled with jade and gold artifacts and filigreed jewelry from the Monte Alb n and Mitla archaeological sites. Visits to these ancient remnants of the Zapotecs and Mixtecs are must-do day trips. Although the past is treasured and preserved, Oaxaca is not afraid of the 20th century and even has a public Internet caf?.
Perhaps no where else in Mexico are indigenous crafts more carefully preserved and displayed. Exquisite rugs, world-renowned wood carvings, and the distinctive black pottery of the region are displayed in the town's many boutiques and in the clamorous marketplaces that bewitch even the most casual sightseers with their cultural enchantments.
And Oaxaca is not a town to turn its back on a party. Besides celebrating the many religious festivals observed throughout Mexico, Oaxaco throws a huge wing-ding in the summer, its Guelaguetza, and to keep life from settling into too humdrum a pace, enlivens December with its remarkable Radish Night, during which artisans enter their fantastic carvings of giant radishes in contests of creativity and skill.