Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca

Designed by a painter, and filled with plants that tell you more about Oaxaca's cultural history than horticulture, this is no ordinary garden.

This is the backyard of Oaxaca's city's 16th-century Santo Domingo monastery and its ornate, gold-laced cathedral. The walled garden was formerly part of the monastery and then was used by the military for 120 years, until passed on to the government in the mid-90s. The historic site is watched over by the monastery's serene stone walls on one side and is littered with the ruins of the kilns and cisterns of many lifetimes before. There are the marks of the violence, warring and military occupation in the bullet holes still in the walls.

When the government was passed the land, they considered turning this site into a hotel and parking lot, but a group of local artists and intellectuals lobbied for the grounds to be put to better use. Leading artist Francisco Toledo and anthropologist Alejandro de Avila proposed a garden, and in 1994 the state created a trust enabling the ethnobotanical garden to be built. Although not a gardener, Toledo designed the garden. The artist's hand is clear in the form and lines, the flow of space, the composition of plants and use of materials.

The garden has a remarkable collection of plants, with an ethnobotanical focus, so the plants allow you to trace local historical and cultural connections through them, from edible plants, the uses of agave in traditional drinks like tequila, mezcal and pulque, medicinal plants and those used for dyes.

Seeing the gardens is only possible by taking a tour, but the tours are so information-rich that you wouldn't want to miss them anyway. Investigate your visit here.


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