OK, I am sorry it has been a while before finishing the blog about our awesome trip to Mexico. I am in port right now, so instead of going too in-depth, I'm going to throw a whole bunch of pictures up with some captions, and assure you that we had a fantastic time! Without further ado....
Oaxaca - The Ruins
There is a lot of neat, ancient history in and around Oaxaca. The cool thing about the ruins here, they are not totally overrun by tourists like the Yucatan or many other places in Mexico and Central America we've been. Although now that the word is getting out, I will not be surprised if things change very soon.
Mitla is a small town in the valley that never really stopped living with the old Zapotec structures. You can't dig a hole in anybody's yard without finding artifacts, and the old structures butt right up against the currently-used ones. No jungle or massive agriculture overwhelmed this area as it has been continuously inhabited. As is common all over Mexico, when the conquistadors made it to this spot, they tore down the old temples and used the materials to build the town's new Catholic church. Out with the old, in with the new, whether you like it or not! They do like it now as they are mostly Catholic, but the people here also maintain their old language, many not even speaking Spanish, and are very proud of their ancestry. Here are some pictures of Mitla.
Here is the heart of the town, as in most Mexican towns, the Catholic church. As mentioned above, it is built with the stones of the Zapotec temple, a hard message to miss!
And here is the back of the church where you can see the thousand-years-old structures still built into the walls of the church. Unbelievable.
More of the site.
These patterns are unmistakably Mitla by design, and are found incorporated into modern Oaxaca folk art and tapetes, including one of ours. After visiting this site, then shopping for rugs, we shouted out in recognition "Mitla! Es Mitla, no?" Si. Yes. Unique to these particular people in this tiny town. Really fun.
And in these lesser known sites, you can climb right into the tombs! Awesome!
Monte Alban -
Monte Alban is the most significant site in Oaxaca. The site is impressive, sitting atop a mountain with panoramic views of the valley. They basically leveled the top, built these pyramids and structures, then the rest of the town and agriculture spread out down towards the valley in terraced hillsides, much like today (though the main town is on the valley floor, not the top of the mountains!)
Besides the awesome views and beautiful site, nobody is here! We went on a Sunday when it was free to all Mexicans, and there still weren't very many people there. Incredible. Absolutely incredible.
One Monte Alban structure.
The main site of Monte Alban
The valley as seen from Monte Alban
One of the great things about Monte Alban is the superb museum located in Oaxaca city. A lot of artifacts and art pieces excavated from the Monte Alban ruins are still there in the local museum. Incredible pieces of gold, an intricate jade-covered skull, old pottery etc. There is also a great exhibit about the excavation of the archeological site as well. We really enjoyed touring the ruins, and later in the week looking through the museum for a more full understanding of the significance of the site and it's history.
And we went to the beach. The beach in Oaxaca state was so nice, so perfect, that I refuse to tell you where it was, because then it will be overrun by high-rise gringo hotels and all the nice palapas will disappear. You will have to find your own beach, but this was ours:
Last but not least, we left the Oaxaca area for Cancun to meet up with Grant's sister and brother-in-law for more beach time on the Yucatan peninsula. I hate to give this section so little time, as it was the time of my life. We had such a great time, and it was really hard to leave. This was not so much a cultural experience, though we always strive to meet the locals, but was mainly a fantastic beach vacation. We spent a lot of time in Tulum, a nearby secluded bay, and at various cenotes. Cenotes are fresh water swimming holes (well, actually spiritual places) that are a result of the catastrophic meteor impact of the area. The meteor impact apparently knocked a bunch of holes into the limestone plateau of the penninsula. The resulting holes filled up with the rain water and the occasional underground river system. The cenotes are open, semi open, underground, and the type right next to the beach that feed into ocean. Very cool. I'll come back and speak more about this section, but for now, enjoy some pictures.