Stroll into Simply Oaxaca, a small shop on Lexingtons Southland Drive, and you will see a fascinating array of pottery, weavings, paintings, jewelry, and fantastically colored wooden carvings, with subjects ranging from religious icons to whimsical animals. What you wont see right away is that the store is also the home of a community center whose aims extend far beyond commerce. Mexican immigrants Jacobo and Janice Aragon founded Simply Oaxaca to bring the art and culture of their native state to the Bluegrass State. In addition to running the store, they conduct seminars, workshops, and exhibits designed to further understanding of Hispanic cultures and traditions among their adopted neighbors. Meanwhile, for Central Kentuckys growing Mexican population, Simply Oaxaca also functions as a little piece of home.
Located in southeastern Mexico on the Pacific coast, Oaxaca is a land of variety, both in scenery and in population. It is the most ethnically diverse state in Mexico, and its landscapes range from ancient ruins like Monte Alban to jungles to mountains to beaches. But it is also one of Mexicos poorest states, with a formerly agriculture-based economy now giving way to dependence on tourism. As people have been forced to move off the land and seek their livelihood in Oaxaca City, traditional arts and crafts such as those spotlighted at the Aragons shop have also become increasingly important as a source of income. The items on sale at Simply Oaxaca are all hand-crafted. The Aragons buy the pieces directly from their creators to help ensure that the artisans receive a greater share of the proceeds from their work.