It is only the first of many surreal sights in Oaxaca. Sometimes it seems we have receded to an era when burros and carts are the chief transport, and their drivers speak only Indian languages. Other times, we are balanced like that truck, half over the mysterious beyond, half over the mundane earth. We pass a roadside vendor holding aloft a rabbit as large as a goat, like the mythic jack rabbits on vintage Texas postcards. In the cloud forest blanketing the mountains, separating Oaxaca City from the sea, houses seem fixed to the mountainside by faith alone, and familiar plants are gargantuan - banana trees taller than houses, ferns growing head high, tulip trees with blossoms as large as trumpets. Within a week the fantastic seems commonplace, only a variation on the themes of everyday life.
Perhaps these dreamlike surroundings inspire Oaxaqueños to interpret their lives in art. Though the poorest state in Mexico, Oaxaca boasts an estimated 300,000 artists and artisans who support themselves through their work, whether traditional handicraft or fine art destined for galleries from Oaxaca City to San Francisco. Oaxaca produced Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) and Rodolfo Morales (1925-2001), two of the most respected artists in Mexican history. Oaxacan native Francisco Toledo, considered Mexico's greatest living artist, still works in his Oaxaca studio.

And now a cadre of younger artists - Sergio Hernandez and Jose Villalobos, both already recognized in Mexico, and the up-and-coming Guillermo Olguín, Fernando Olivera, Luis Zarate, Emi Winter, and Maximino Javier, among others - work in styles so distinctive that critics see a "Oaxacan School" emerging.