Tuesday, February 16, 2010

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #20): Oaxaca, Oaxaca

While the city of Oaxaca is no stranger to visitors, it is anything but a tourist trap. Oaxaca has maintained a very colonial flavor while becoming known as a cultural arts center for the country because a number of local indigenous populations maintain their distinctive identities and languages. Oaxaca was named a “World Heritage Site” by the United Nations in 1987 along with the nearby Monte Alban ruins.

Oaxaca was discovered by Spanish conquistadores in 1533, and quickly became a favorite of Hernando Cortes and his family for its temperate climate and scenery provided by the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range that rims the city of a quarter-million inhabitants. There are a number of beautiful churches in Oaxaca (including the breathtaking baroque styled Templo de Santo Domingo), plus several fine mansions, government buildings and plazas throughout the city. There are outdoor markets galore throughout the state of Oaxaca, and the Saturday mercado in the city is not to be missed. Oaxaca is also known for its many colorful fiestas, and history buffs almost always visit the ruins at Monte Alban and Mitla (both built centuries ago by the Zapotec tribe and also occupied by the Mayans and Aztecs).

While Oaxaca is reasonably consistent in temperatures in the 70’s throughout the year, the rainy season between May and September is also a familiar companion.

Oaxaca is home to the Mexican League Guerreros during the spring and summer. The Guerreros play at Eduardo Vasconcelos Stadium, a 7,200-seat facility built in 1950 in the northern part of the city. Field turf was installed on the playing surface in recent years, and a 2008 renovation to the ballpark brought a new video screen and improved seats in the stands.  Oaxaca finished 42-63 in 2009 and missed the playoffs.

While the Guerreros (or “Warriors”) have yet to win a Liga crown since entering the Mexican League in 1996, they play in front of enthusiastic and noisy crowds that include cheerleaders. Yes, cheerleaders. Baseball in Mexico is indeed different.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#21): Villahermosa, Tabasco

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