What is in a Name?
Oaxaca Profundo Sessions was founded in 2015 in Oaxaca City. The name Oaxaca Profundo is a grace-giving, a bow, and a dedication to the Mexico Profundo (literally “deep Mexico”) made famous by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla in a book of the same name in the 1980’s. In Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization, Bonfil Batalla took to task the “imaginary Mexico,” the dominant and colonial Mexico of the history books that makes up a tiny fraction of Mexico’s local worlds. He detailed how the conquest never ended, but was transformed into an independent, self-serving, nationalist project, that continued to both exploit and absorb the culture, lands, and livelihoods of indigenous Mexico or the Mexico Profundo.
Oaxaca Profundo, then, is an attempt to honour the stories and livelihoods that have been brought under threat by the mechanisms of domination in the imaginary Oaxaca for centuries. This is a project that seeks to remember and serve the many Oaxacas, the countless cultures, the dense diversity of languages, the endless edible foodways, and how resistance often amounts to the survival and regeneration of local worlds. Focusing on the grassroots cultures in Oaxaca, this project both transcends and subverts the “imaginary Mexico” so often packaged and sold to tourists and visitors. To forge a world where many worlds fit and feed each other is, and not just fed by each other, our mandate is deep learning, humility, and hospitality.
In a time of exponentially-expanding spectacle, extraction and exploitation, how can we proceed towards and approach the depths of the places we live – both the remembered and the forgotten, and honour each? How might we cultivate the grassroots of place, instead of consuming it?
These questions are part of the foundation for Oaxaca Profundo Sessions, and with that we give our days over to peeling back the layers, lifting the veil that tourism has tightened around culture, often in the name of consumption, so that each of us might be able to proceed towards the depth, the profundity of our homes – the soil and soul of place.
The sessions we have created are designed to be uniquely of their time and place, each specifically curated by local experts, storytellers, apprentices, farmers, craftsmen and women, alongside Oaxaca Profundo animators. This is to say that each session and each group is dynamic, that although the themes of each session are fixed (chocolate, pulque, pottery, etc), how they are approached reflects the relationships between our hosts and guests on any given day. We focus on principally on deep learning and hospitality, each of which can be carried to the places our guests return to – a reciprocating cycle that feeds the grassroots of Oaxaca and the homes of those who visit it.
Group sizes and session lengths are distinct. Each have been tried and tested to ensure that there is intimacy in our learning experiences. For that reason we allow no more than 8 guests per session, with the exception of large private or school groups, which are tended to accordingly. In curating each session, the hard questions around the often dire and unseen consequences of tourism are implicated. How do we carry and honour these stories and traditions in ways that regenerate them, as opposed to fetishizing them? This is always our principal perogative.
Over the last half decade, we have dedicated ourselves to such work, both collectively and personally. Our sessions invite our guests into such deep learning, into the homes of hosts so that we may remember hospitality and proceed as worthy guests, into relationship with those who honour their traditions by quietly and fiercely resisting the machinations of spectacle and consumption that tourism often brings with it. We are dreaming such worlds, and we invite you to dream with us. To peer in, a little deeper, read about our sessions, here.