It’s hot in Oaxaca right now. It is so hot that walking even a few blocks right now leaves me in a sweaty mess upon arrival to my destination. If you looked around at what Oaxacans are wearing you would think it was cold. At most you might think it is a nice spring day but there is no way you would think it is 96 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius for my fellow Brits). Looking out to the road as I type, people are passing wearing jeans, and tight ones at that. People are wearing jackets, boots, black jackets and brown boots! Whilst I am sitting in a skirt and a spaghetti top a woman is passing me wearing black jeans tucked into leather boots and a tight black long sleeved shirt. Just looking at her makes me want to melt and she doesn’t even have a drop of sweat on her. I have even seen people wearing earmuffs at the first sign of cold and big thick jackets when us English would be sunbathing.
For a long time I was totally bewildered by this, then I saw a Mexican baby in a pram and it all made sense! Babies are wrapped up in about five hundred blankets, given wooly hats and even gloves on days when if I had a child they would probably be running free, in a t-shirt, a pair of undies and not much else. Oaxacans are accustomed from a young age to deal with the heat and to feel the cold. Being a Londoner I am accustomed to just the opposite.
I must say, we humans adapt quickly though. My first summer here I stood out completely wearing flip-flops and shorts in the city, completely shocked that culturally what I was wearing was almost unacceptable and certainly made me more of a target for catcalls in the street. It was, and still is, easy to spot foreigners in the street, more by their choice of clothes than their physical appearance. Overtime however, I started to adapt, wearing jeans on days where foreigners new to the city would look at me with the same painful look I give the Oaxacans who still remain leagues ahead of me. Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t a pride thing amongst foreigners who can deal with jeans on a hot day. It is almost a statement of “I am far more Oaxacan than you” because I wear jeans in 90 degree heat.
Either way, in this kind of heat I would prefer to be at the beach with a coconut water and the cool sea to stop me melting.
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, BBC Travel, The Independent UK, Afar and The New Worlder among others. Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.