In the last couple of decades, Oaxaca has become quite adept at cultivating an excellent shade-grown, fair trade, mountain grown coffee bean. That’s not what I’d like to talk about in this post however.
What has been on my mind a lot recently has been how Mexico, especially Oaxaca, has cultivated something much more interesting: a European style coffee culture.
Sociologists say that a coffee culture is “a social atmosphere or series of associated social behaviors that depends heavily upon coffee, particularly as a social lubricant.”
Having a coffee culture basically means getting together with friends/family on a regular basis over a cup of coffee. It could be in a public place (and Oaxaca is well suited for this as there are cafés on almost every corner), or at home. It might be accompanied with pan dulce or a good dessert, but it always brings with it good conversation.
I think that Oaxaqueños have adopted a coffee culture as a direct result of the sobre mesa – the after dinner chat that has all but gone by the wayside in some individualistic societies. Oaxaqueños love to socialize. It’s at the very fabric of their being. They are gregarious by nature and are prone to talk for hours. Because of this, they take advantage of social gatherings to the fullest. I have personally experienced some sobre mesas lasting up to four hours and more. Once I begrudgingly endured 5 hours of conversation, in Spanish! I can’t tell you how many times I pinched myself and all the things I thought of to try and stay awake.
Now that I have become an honorary Oaxaqueño, and have learned enough Spanish to get myself in trouble, I look forward to meeting friends so that we can talk about life: our dreams, aspirations, and failures. I no longer endure the time, but actively take part in it.
Being individualistic is fine to a point – as it’s nice to sit at Barnes & Noble with a good book (and a venti Java Chip Frappuccino with skim milk, extra chocolate syrup, and no whip), but life is so much more interesting with a group of friends, sitting in a café in the Zocolo. And of course, with a good cup of Oaxacan coffee.