Oaxaca and Monte Alban

Oaxaca Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 19 › view all entries

Colonial Oaxaca was built with stones taken from ancient temples a few miles away. We explore the complex of temples, pyramids and enigmatic rock carvings at Monte Alban, a high spur that looms over the fertile valley. This mystical site was created by Zapotec Indians, who flourished here a thousand years ago. 

Situated on a mountain 400 m above the Oaxaca Valley, Monte Albán was once the holy city of more than 30,000 Zapotecs. It is the area's most interesting and extensively excavated ruin, yet it is estimated that only about 10% of the site has yet been uncovered.People have lived in the Oaxaca Valley since about 2000 BC. Between 800 and 500 BC, there was an influx of new peoples, now called the Zapotecs.

Around 500 BC, these peoples began the monumental exercise of leveling the top of a mountain, where they would build Monte Albán.

 Monte Albán was also influenced by other contemporary cultures. Olmec influence is evident in the early sculptures; more recent masks and sculptures reflect contact with the Maya. At its zenith in 300 AD, Monte Albán borrowed architectural ideas from Teoithuacan and dominated the cultural, religious, and economic life of the region.Monte Albán declined in later years and by 800 AD was largely abandoned. Around 13th century it was adopted by the Mixtecs, who added little to the existing architecture but left magnificent gold-laden tombs for their royalty.

On the eastern side of the Great Plaza is an I-shaped ballcourt (Juego de Pelota). This ballcourt differs slightly from Maya and Toltec ballcourts in that there are no goal rings and the sides of the court slope.

The ball game played on this court had ritual significance, and losers were usually put to death as an offering to the gods. The game wasn't easy, either: players had to manipulate the ball using only hips, shoulders, knees and elbows. 

After our trip tp Monte Alban we make our way back to Oaxaca to explore some more of this colouful city and have some laundry done. 

Oaxaca is the center of chocolate production in Mexico. The history of Oaxaca chocolate goes back for centuries, and the residents of this region consume significantly more chocolate than other people in Mexico, thanks to the pervasiveness of chocolate in Oaxacan culture. Many visitors to this region of Mexico indulge in its famous ingredient, taking advantage of the culinary heritage of Oaxaca chocolate in a wide assortment of both sweet and savory dishes.

Chocolate is made from the beans of the cacao tree, after they are picked and carefully fermented. The seasoned beans are ground into a gritty paste which can be seasoned with an assortment of ingredients to bring out its flavor. In Mexico, chocolate has historically been consumed in a wide assortment of things, but perhaps most famously in the form of a hot spiced drink, which European explorers brought back with them. This drink, in a slightly different form is the  hot chocolate we drink today.

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
photo by: tonygiglio