By Cynthia Hibbard
I was an eager, serial En Via tour participant - six villages in the greater Oaxaca Valley in three, consecutive trips. If I'd had more than a few weeks in Oaxaca I would have gone more. For travelers, En Via really is the most direct route into the authentic heart of indigenous, Oaxacan cultures and the experience it provides feels genuine and lasting.
Even though two of the trips stopped in the same village, each visit was unique because our destinations varied. The En Via bus could be counted on to sail right past the usual tourist-bus destinations and deposit us at the homes of ordinary women struggling to start a rich variety of businesses. They greeted us, sometimes fed us, demonstrated their businesses and wares and patiently answered all our curious questions. We met weavers, a butcher, organic farmers, hardware and variety store owners, a seamstress, a beauty salon owner, plus makers of chocolate, mole and soap.
Some of us bought their products, some of us not. But they were always as glad to see us and we were them because the fees from each of our our tours translated directly into micro-loans for their businesses. And what they gave us - a sincere welcome into their lives - was priceless.