Oaxaca meets Denver this weekend in Westwood — and you can meet some tlayudas and chilaquiles

Oaxaca en Denver is a two-day event bringing the Mexican state’s rich heritage to the westside.
6 min. read
Ana Marina Sanchez (left to right), Rubén Hernández and Mariana del Hierro sit at Re:Vision’s campus in Westwood. April 24, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

When Ana Marina Sanchez recently took a trip to Mexico, she made a stop in the state of Oaxaca to connect with some local artisans. Sanchez runs Ana Marina Studios, a jewelry store at the RISE Westwood Campus.

Oaxaca, Sanchez said, is an epicenter of arts, culture and culinary traditions rooted in its indigenous history. It’s a state also fighting to preserve that history through art and food. 

Connecting with artists out there was inspirational for Sanchez.

“It’s one of the states that represents the richness of indigenous cultures,” Sanchez said. “As a Mexican immigrant, I'm so happy and so proud to see how much inspiration, how much beauty there can be concentrated in one place. I think this is because a lot of people are in resistance. They're on a mission to showcase their culture… It's definitely really inspiring to see how there are families that have kept their [artistic] traditions for generations after generations. It’s something valuable and inspires you to continue doing the same.”

So, Sanchez came back from that trip ready to share what she learned and her first stop in Westwood was with Rubén Hernández, a Oaxaca native and owner of La Reyna del Sur, a Oaxacan food truck.

As the two discussed the state and its history, Sanchez said the culture needed to be shared with more people. She and Hernández linked up with Re:Vision, the nonprofit that owns the RISE campus, and said let’s create an event showcasing Oaxacan culture.

Now Denverites can experience that culture at "Oaxaca en Denver."

From April 27 to the 28, Oaxaca will take over the RISE Campus parking lot off at 3738 Morrison Rd. and Re:Vision’s art gallery space. Rain or shine.

Ana Marina Sanchez (left to right), Rubén Hernández and Mariana del Hierro sit at Re:Vision's campus in Westwood. April 24, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The two-day event is all about local chefs sharing their take on Oaxaca dishes and local artisans doing the same.

“The thing about Oaxaca is that it is one of the states in Mexico that has the most ethnic diversity. All of the merging of different cultures, languages really adds to a rich tapestry of food and culture and traditions that are really not seen here in Denver,” Hernández said through his wife Diana. “We’re trying to really highlight that culture here.”

There’s also that level of preservation. The Westwood neighborhood is no stranger to preservation efforts through community events. Oaxaca en Denver is no different, said Mariana del Hierro, executive director of Re:Vision.

“As a food hub that centers on food sovereignty and preserving our cultural traditions in all the many ways, we felt that focusing on Oaxaca was really bringing it back to the beginning,” del Hierro said. “Looking at those ancestral pre-Hispanic culinary traditions that are from Oaxaca and are still very present in Mexican culinary traditions.”

That includes food items like mole and chapulines, or grasshoppers.

Hernández is from an indigenous village in Oaxaca and said they are experiencing vast changes as more people are introduced to colonization. Native languages, like the Mixteco dialect, are being lost. 

Hernández said Oaxaca en Denver is both showing off where he is from and his own way of preserving his memories.

The event will start off Saturday at 12 p.m. with Hernández being center stage.

He’ll be welcoming attendees in Mixteco and setting things off with a blessing and Folclórico dancing. 

Rubén Hernández stands in the barbacoa pit where he'll soon be cooking on Re:Vision's campus in Westwood. April 24, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Hernández will also be teaching a Mixteco language class. 

That’ll be in between his cooking. The La Reyna truck will be serving up tlayuda and cemitas, both native dishes of Oaxaca. Tlayudas are similar to tostadas in that a large, thin and fried tortilla is topped with beans Oaxaca cheese and a protein. Cemitas are sandwiches made with a sesame-seed bread. 

Other local Denver chefs will also be selling dishes with their take on Oaxaca classics. Xatrucho’s Edwin Sandoval will be serving up chilaquiles y pastelitos negros. Many of Re:Vision’s promotoras will also be serving up dishes for the first time including Maria Ledezma who will have chileajo and Inda Vergara who will be making mole verde.

There will also be Oaxaca-inspired drinks and a mezcal tasting, a Oaxaca staple. 

Sanchez will be in the mix as well, selling jewelry pieces inspired by her time in Oaxaca.

She’ll also host a jewelry workshop where she’ll be teaching kids and youths how to make bracelets using traditional Oaxacan jewelry charms. 

Other vendors include La Oaxaqueña Tlayudas Y Chapulines, who will be selling Oaxacan clothes and Taller Antiguas Maravillas Jewelry, a jewelry maker from Oaxacan. 

Ana Marina Sanchez stands in front of her storefront at Re:Vision's campus in Westwood. April 24, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Besides the Oaxacan food and vendors, Denverites will also be treated to the Palo Encebado game. It’s a traditional Oaxacan game where contestants climb a 15-foot greased-up wooden pole. Whoever gets to the top wins a prize. 

Sunday will be more of a calmer vibe with less classes but celebration is at the forefront. Hernández will be celebrating the two-year anniversary of La Reyna. 

Hernández started cooking at Re:Vision’s commissary kitchen and opened the food truck in 2022. For him, the truck is an extension of his origins and a look into his future. 

“It creates community…showcasing the diversity of Oaxaca gastronomy and highlighting the people from the community,” Hernández said. “My hope for the future is to be able to offer people a place where they can come and feel like they're in Oaxaca. To have a traditional kitchen for the generational recipes and to be able to preserve my ancestral techniques.”

Flags flutter over Re:Vision's campus in Westwood ahead of their Oaxaca en Denver event. April 24, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Oaxaca may be miles away in a different country but sharing that experience through food and art is a way to foster community, Hernández said.

Oaxaca en Denver will start on Saturday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday will be more of a brunch event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free and food costs are dependent on the vendor.

“Don't miss out on trying new things,” Hernández said. “There's so much different things that you can try at this event, food, you can listen to different types of music. You can participate in a different type of class…This is going to be special.”

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