Published: June 16th 2009June 16th 2009
We toured around a bit outside the city today. First stop was the ruins of the Zapotepec capital at Monte Alban. It was occupied between approximately 500 BC to 700 AD. It is located on a hilltop that affords excellent views overlooking the three valleys that connect to form Oaxaca City. The ruins reminded me very much of the Mayan ruins at Copan, Honduras because of the layout of the city and the ruins themselves; not so much at all of the Mayan ruins at Tikal, Guatemala though. I wonder why. Maybe have to do a bit of research when I get time on whether there was any connection between the Zapotepec and the Maya but still, Copan is much further south than Tikal so it's hard to explain. Maybe it's just me and the ruins all start to look the same after a while.
The ruins themselves were rather impressive and I've attached a few photos.
After Monte Alban, we headed to the Valle de Zimatlan south of Oaxaca. There are several villages here in which the different crafts for which Oaxaca is famous are made. We started at Santo Tomas Jalietza which is where the local women work back-strap
looms to make cotton textiles--rugs, table-runners, purses, etc. There is a small market on the square at which several women interrupt their weaving to sell their wares. Didn't seem like they get many visitors here but the market is set up pretty nicely so maybe we just hit it on an off-day.
The next stop was San Martin Tilcajete which is home to the multitude of families that make the alebrijes figures. We visited several shops to check them out and decide which were the nicest worth buying. It's kinda interesting how so many people in such a small town are engaged in making the same craft but that those same crafts are made nowhere else. Talk about market domination, maybe the families should be investigated for colluding to form a cartel.
Last stop was San Bartolo Coyotepec, home to the famous black pottery. Here we visited the Alfareria (pottery shop) Dona Rosa, which as it turns out is the woman who first decided back in 1953 that the pottery should be shiny black rather than dull gray. We didn't realize it pulling in, but apparently we got lucky because that was the largest and nicest shop. The process they
use to make the pottery is unique so her pottery is a bit different than what is available in other shops. The many photos of famous visitors to the shop on the wall, including US President Jimmy Carter and NY Gov and later US VP Nelson Rockefeller attest to her reputation. She died in 1980 (so the people in the photos are from the past) but her family still operates the shop.
All in all, it was a nice day of sight-seeing and souvenir shopping. Hopefully not too many more fragile souvenirs but there is telavera in Puebla and blown glass in Guadalajara.
I forgot to mention in yesterday's entry that as an appetizer for dinner we had chapulines (grasshoppers) which are supposedly pretty big here. The legs come fried and you scoop a spoonful onto a tortilla spread with guacamole and enjoy. It was actually pretty good.
With all the driving around Oaxaca, the trip odometer now reads 989. Next stop will be Puebla and along the way we get our first experience with the Mexican toll road system which is supposed to be every bit as nice if not nicer than the US Interstate System.
There are more photos below