Arcos includes cultural activities in your study abroad program price! Our carefully crafted cultural activities can include cooking classes, dance classes, culinary tours, and museum visits. You will find your confirmed cultural activities in the Program Calendar that you receive one month before your program start date. Below is a list of possible cultural activities for your program:
Welcome Tour & Program Orientation
A chance to explore the historical center and get your bearings ready to make the most out of your stay in Oaxaca. This tour will not only introduce you to some of Oaxaca City’s most important sites such as the zócalo and Santo Domingo, it will also make sure you know where to find WiFi cafes and places to buy school supplies. You will also receive your program orientation to answer all of your questions about academics, health and safety, host families, communication, and activities.
Santo Domingo Church & Museum
Visit the most beautiful of Oaxaca’s churches! The church was built between the years of 1570 and 1608 and artisans from all over colonial Mexico were brought to Oaxaca to help in its construction. The inside of the church is a dazzling array of baroque ornamentation and gilded ceilings. Housed next to the church, in what used to be a monastery, is the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures. Here you will find the extraordinary treasures from the tombs of Monte Albán and other archeological sites, such as jewelry, bone, and clay artifacts. Behind the church is the tranquil ethnobotanical garden full of plants endemic to Oaxaca.
The Teatro Alcalá was built during the reign of Porfirio Díaz. This beautiful theater was designed in a French style and often has concerts and other theatrical events. Constructed in 1903, its marble stairway and five-tier auditorium attracts visitors from around the world. This is a magnificent theater to visit and see a performance.
Traditional Cooking Class (Mexican & Oaxacan)
A great opportunity to take home some of the flavors of Oaxaca to share with friends and family. Oaxaca is famous for its unique dishes. At the top of this list are the moles. There are at least eight basic varieties of mole made in the region. These include: negro (black), amarillo (yellow), coloradito (reddish), almendrado (almonds), verde (green), rojo (red), manchamanteles (tablecloth stainer) and chichilo negro. Some of these moles have more than 20 ingredients! Other typical dishes are tamales with mole, tlayudas, entomatadas and empanadas de mole amarillo.
We will take you to a Yoga class to awaken your senses to the surroundings and beauty of Oaxaca and take a moment for relaxation and contemplation. For those who enjoy yoga there are many opportunities to practice this ancient ritual during your stay.
Guelaguetza Folk Dance Celebration (July)
Guelaguetza comes from the Zapotec word meaning “offering” and reciprocal giving between people and communities, which is the foundation of traditional Oaxacan society. It was the term used to describe the ceremony and celebration held each year to honor the gods in return for sufficient rain and a bountiful harvest. Today the Guelaguetza celebration takes place every July in and around Oaxaca. Beautifully costumed dancers from the seven regions of Oaxaca State perform elaborate dances handed down from generations past. Before the festivities begin the delegations make colorful processions. One of the most famous dances, the Zapotec Feather Dance, is a passionate and symbolic reenactment of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
Latin Dance Class (Salsa, Merengue & Cumbia)
Get some exercise and learn some new dance moves! You'll learn the steps to salsa, merengue and cumbia.
One of the best cinema clubs is at the beautiful Alcalá Theatre where they have a different film theme each month. Every evening you are sure to find something interesting to watch and expand your horizons. We will plan cinema outings to see films that highlight aspects of the Spanish-speaking world.
Organic Food Market & Cotton Weaving Tour
The market was created as a way for organic producers to sell their products for a fair price and to promote the benefits of organic agriculture. Here you will find strong Oaxacan coffee, local honeys, jams, and many other foods. Something you must try is tejate, the traditional beverage once drunk by Zapotec kings. Not only are there wonderful food items here, but you will also find fine handicrafts. Also close by are loom weaving workshops where you can observe traditional cotton weaving techniques.
San Agustin Etla Art School & Paper Workshop Visit
Visit CASA an amazing art school and exhibition space housed in a 1883 textile factory which has been lovingly restored with some modern touches. Just next door is a handmade paper workshop founded by the Oaxacan artist Francisco Toledo. You can watch how paper is made from different types of pulp and see how it is turned into notebooks, jewelry, and even shirts!
Mexico has the oldest printmaking tradition in Latin America and today Oaxaca is a mecca for this art form. Learn the woodcut technique where you create an image or design on a wood plate with carving tools and then apply ink to transfer your unique creation to paper.
Arts & Crafts Workshop (Skull Mask & Mini Shrine Making)
Step into local artist Boris Spider’s wonderful workshop to create your own papier maché skull masks inspired by Mexico’s rich day of the dead traditions and the skeletons that pop up around town throughout the year. Or make a mini shrine inspired by the ‘nichos’ of Mexican folk art.
Bike Tour of Oaxaca
Bike fans get together three times a week to promote using bikes and improving the local environment with a local NGO. An opportunity to easily see lots of undiscovered parts of the city.
Day of the Dead Festival (Fall Semester)
"El Día de los Muertos" is considered Mexico's most characteristic and unique celebration. Oaxaca is one of the best places in Mexico to witness this traditional event. It is a ritual that has been practiced by the indigenous cultures of Mexico since pre-Hispanic times. When the Spaniards arrived the ancient practice took on aspects of Catholicism. Supposedly, during this time, the souls of the deceased return to the homes of their loved ones. Graves are adorned with flowers and candles, while the foods and drinks the deceased enjoyed most in life are laid out on the tombs and around altars that are made in people’s homes. It is truly a once in a life time experience!
Art Gallery Tour
Besides the Museum of Contemporary Art there are almost 100 galleries and museums around town. New exhibits open weekly and we will select a few of the best, most interesting, and varied to expose you to this rich cultural side of Oaxaca.
Oaxaca City's wide array of museums have fascinating fixed and temporary exhibitions to discover more about Mexico’s rich traditions and history. Museum visits could include anything from textiles and stamps to pre-Hispanic art.
Arts & Crafts Workshop (Alebrije Art Craft Painting)
They were first created in Mexico City by Pedro Linares in the 1940s, after suffering from a bout of high fever spells, he began carving and painting fantasy creatures and the results were his famous Alebrijes. You will visit Eco-Alebrijes, a non-profit based out of the town of Arrazola, which is one of the largest producers of this beautiful work of art. Eco-Alebrijes' goal is to create sustainable forests that will secure their livelihood as artisans of this rare craft in the future. The organization created a protected forest of Copalillo trees which has been divided into twelve sectors (it takes 12 years before the tree can be harvested to produce Alebrijes). Not only will you see how these wonderful works of art are created, but you will also have the opportunity to paint your very own alebrije. This is a hands-on experience into the fantasy world of the Alebrijes.
Arts & Crafts Workshop (Graffiti & Stencil Making)
You will have an opportunity to learn about the street art movement in Oaxaca and particularly about the use of stencils to take messages to the streets in a unique way. You will make your own stencil and a T-shirt that will always remind you of your time in Oaxaca.
The end of this life changing experience will be marked by a farewell event bringing together all of the students to celebrate and say their goodbyes.