|Explore North America Mexico Oaxaca|
Oaxaca States Monte Alban is No. 11 of 13 articles being published with pictures from a 14-day Elderhostel program in Mexico called "Dia De Los Muertos in Oaxaca" celebrating of the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, which has probably the largest such celebration, where we stayed seven nights. Three-night visits were also made to Cuernavaca and Tlaxcala. The program was in October and November 2008.
Elderhostel invites participants to "immerse yourself in celebratory rituals for the dead. Roam the halls of imposing palaces and awe-inspiring cathedrals. Embrace the mystery that lies beneath the region's surface in museums and archaeological sites. Absorb the varying differences in three of Mexico's most fascinating cities to discover the traditional significance that defines this intriguing culture."
Just a few miles west of Oaxaca are the remains of one of Mexicos most spectacular archeological sites. The city was home to more than 30,000 Zapotecs. Experts estimate that only about ten per cent of the site has been uncovered. Digs sporadically occur whenever the budget permits.
The site overlooks the Oaxaca Valley from a flattened mountaintop leveled by either the Zapotecs or their predecessors abut 600 B.C. Most of the buildings were built on a north-south axis with the Observatory being the only exception. The arrow-shaped structure at a 45-degree angle is more closely aligned with the stars than with the Earths poles.
A well-preserved Ball Court was probably where the losing team was sacrificed to the gods. Hips, shoulders, knees, and elbows were likely used to hit a wooden or rubber ball. The oldest temple on the site is called the Dancers Gallery, although the figures carved on stone appear more likely to have been captives or warriors.
No one knows for certain whether the Zapotec abandoned the site gradually or suddenly, but by 1000 A.D. it was empty. Next the Mixtec people used Monte Alban as a necropolis of lavish tombs with more than 200 tombs and 300 burial sites having been explored. Found in Tomb No. 7 were more than 500 Mixtec objects including gold, jade, pearl, ivory and gold jewelry and fans, masks, and belt buckles of precious stones and metals. Many of these objects are displayed in the Santo Domingo Museum in Oaxaca. Some of those objects are pictured in my Santo Domingo Museum article.
Both Oaxaca and Monte Alban were declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1987.
Oaxaca traces its history at least 7,000 years back when about 20 diverse ethnic groups occupied the land. The Mixtecs and Zapotecs were the two most important groups. When the Aztecs arrived, they named the central valley Huaxyacac because of the huaje trees covering the land. When the Spanish arrived in the year 1521, they renamed it Oaxaca, a much more easily pronounced word.
The settlement was officially named a royal city in 1532. This area of Mexico was given to Hernan Cortes after the Spanish Conquest, in return for his services to the Spanish Crown. Oaxaca was also the home of Benito Juarez, originally a servant-boy to an affluent family, who become President of Mexico and one of Mexico's most revered historical characters. Oaxaca gained prominence in the colonial era because of its location as a gateway to Central and South America as well as its rich landscape, intricate textiles and rumored gold mines.
The State of Oaxaca has a population of about 4 million, while Oaxaca City has about a half million residents.
The city enjoys near perfect weather year round, with tropical sunlight almost daily and ideal temperatures because of its location at about 5,500 feet. Oaxaca State is in the Sierra Madre mountains with the Pacific Ocean touching its southern shoreline.
An index of articles related to this trip can be seen at our home page: http://www.worldisround.com/home/jdtan/index.html
If you have any questions, email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org rather than including them in your remarks at the bottom of the photo page.
article published 2/13/2009