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Oaxacan Gastronomy and its link with religion

The richness and variety of gastronomy are an undeniable characteristic of the Oaxacan culture, but the way in which it is shared and selflessly offered to others lies in an aspect more deeply rooted in our history: religion.

INEGI data from 2020 show that 75.5% of Oaxacans profess the Catholic religion, a direct inheritance from the colonial era in Latin America. This figure compared to the analysis carried out 10 years earlier is lower for various reasons, one of them is the increase in the levels of education in the region and another is the increase in the presence of other religions (or the absence of it) in the same space, this can be seen in greater detail in Graph 1.

Graph 1. Percentage of total population by region 2010 and 2020. Source: INEGI. Population and housing censuses 2010 and 2020.

There is testimony of the latent existence of hospitality and warmth of the Native American before, during and after the conquest; In pre-Columbian times of peace, peoples used to share feathers and slaves as a sign of good faith and friendship. With the arrival of the Spanish invaders, it is enough to take a look at the delivery of food and gifts that the inhabitants of the Antilles offered to Christopher Columbus when he set foot on their soil for the first time. Over the years this concept evolved into a question of slavery between the defeated and the winners of the wars for control of the new world and the arrival of the Catholic creed hitherto unknown to the new conquered lands.

One of the most important aspects in all this analysis is linked to an issue that is not present in the statistics, which can be called "sharing bread and wine", a teaching present throughout the world's Christianity. The empirical evidence lies in observations focused on people, generally the elderly, who had a purely Catholic and traditional upbringing, since the times they lived in were not as open to different possibilities as they are now. All of us who grew up in an Oaxacan family without fear of exaggeration can assure you that visits from grandma used to be synonymous with enthusiasm and gifts. Economic prosperity was not a reality, but neither was it an impediment to being able to offer something to their loved ones, be it some sweet fruit or some stew made by their own hands, but arriving empty-handed was not an option.

In our calendar there are many dates that directly link the church and gastronomy, since one cannot exist without the other; Outside of some relationship of power, the otherness they share is of such dimensions that even those who are no longer part of this world are considered, in the world-famous festival of the Day of the Dead in November, which is a waste of flavors and colors. . Another of the important dates should also be considered the day of the Samaritan woman as a unique experience in the world, since wandering through the streets of Oaxaca on the third Friday of March allows you to enjoy a wide variety of flavored waters, ice cream and regional snacks. The mezcal fair could not be missed, a great opportunity to taste the different profiles of the agave distillates that this land produces.

Percentage, number of people and average deficiencies by poverty indicator, 2016 - 2020. Own elaboration with data from Coneval.

These traditions face current inflation and loss of purchasing power, since the possibility of giving away food or water is far from the average income of Oaxacan households that are below the poverty line. According to Coneval data, the number of the latter has decreased, but not very significantly in the last 5 years. If the redistribution of wealth reaches these dispossessed, it is very likely that the folklore of the festivals can reach more people and be available to everyone.


Regional appetizers: They are small sweet snacks that are used as desserts or appetizers to satisfy hunger or to share a product with those interested.

Folklore: Set of traditions, legends, beliefs, customs, proverbs, etc., popular and maintained by tradition.

Inflation: Economic process caused by the existing imbalance between production and demand: it causes a continuous rise in the prices of most products and services, and a loss of the value of money to be able to acquire or use them.

Purchasing power: Economic capacity of a person or a community to acquire goods and services.

Redistribution of wealth: The manner and proportion in which economic wealth is distributed among the different social strata or sectors of a given country or society.

Poverty threshold: It is the minimum and maximum income level that a country can have according to its customs, traditions and beliefs, necessary to acquire an adequate standard of living in a given country.


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