My visit to Tlacolula made me think a lot about the type of traveler I am. Now that I have a fancy camera, I bring it everywhere, so I can take pictures to show all of you people. (And to show my parents and friends.) But really, why is it so important for me to take pictures where I'm traveling? Is taking pictures ever exploitative, even when I don't mean it to be? The Tlacolula Market, held Sundays in the town of Tlacolula outside Oaxaca, has some interesting prepared foods and produce. But the people-watching is what makes Tlacolula an experience. Dozens of Zapotec women in colorful headscarfs and ribbon-wrapped braids walk around chattering in their language, selling bowlfuls of tejate, bunches of garlic with the stems still attached. They also buy and sell live turkeys. I'd never seen anything like this before. I desperately wanted to take portraits of these women, but I couldn't work up the guts to ask. (The photos above were shot secretly.) Instead I took pictures of food. About half the vendors I dealt with seemed upset even by that. One woman called out to me -- "Señora!" -- after I took a picture of her roasted chicken from across the aisle. When I told her I couldn't buy a chicken, she grumbled. So I offered to erase the photo. At another stand, I bought a kilo of criollo corn. The man selling it gave me a curt nod and didn't look at me when I asked if I could take a picture of it. Crayton asked me: Why are you so upset? They're vendors who make their livelihood off of selling food, and they're annoyed with tourists who don't buy anything. "But I am buying stuff!" I fumed at him. Except... not a metate. Seeing a line of them painted with flowers made my heart flutter, so much that I wanted a photo. I asked the vendor politely and she nodded and looked a bit annoyed. I wanted to give her something, but handing over 20 pesos seemed rude. I'm not sure she would've taken it. What it came down to was, yes, I had a camera, but I didn't like being treated like a rude tourist. Was I acting like one, just because I had a camera? Should I have not taken any pictures at all? I cared deeply about Mexican food and culture, and to arrive at Tlacolula and be treated like an outsider stung. But obviously I was an outsider. I didn't speak Zapotec and I didn't live in Tlacolula, and these people weren't making a dime from me. To just tromp in and expect them to cater to me didn't seem respectful either. A handful of the vendors I spoke to were really nice. The woman who sold me dried beans and tamala squash seeds said I couldn't Tlacolula without trying higaditos, which were a kind of egg guisado made with shredded chicken and tomatoes. It didn't have any liver, contrary to the name. Crayton and I shared a bowlful at a little fonda called "Juanita," inside the big market building. We also split a chocolate atole, which was nothing like the thick, overly sweet champurrados of Mexico City. This one was fluffy and light, full of pieces of corn. We also tried tejate, which is a pre-hispanic drink made from cacao, corn, and ground mamey seed called pixtle. It was viscous and not very sweet, which I liked. I also liked drinking it out of a jícara, a traditional bowl made from a squash gourd. A few days after my visit to Tlacolula, I visited the market in Teotitlan del Valle, another tiny town outside Oaxaca City. This time my guide was Zapotec -- a fabulous local cook named Reina Mendoza. The difference was noticeable: every vendor smiled at me, and one woman laughed when I said "thank-you" in Zapotec. (Reina told me how.) So my question for you is: What's the answer here? Is it a matter of not bringing the camera at all, and not writing this blog post out of respect for the people who sell their food and don't get paid directly by Internet attention? In a perfect world, I could've hired a Zapotec guide to take me around Tlacolula. Or paid some type of photo fee to take pictures. But neither of those things were options. What would you have done?