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MEXICO - MITLA -THE PLACE OF THE DEAD -( STATE OF OAXACA)

Mitla, The Place of the Dead, The Place of Rest

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About 45kms. from the city of Oaxaca are the famous prehistoric ruins of Mitla, which occupy the place of pride of Mexican archaeology of the Zapotec period in the history of Mexico. The pyramids are constructed, albeit with a smaller base than at Monte Albán, at the base of the valley, which was inhabited and not on isolated regions of the mountain. These were built mostly for religious ceremonies and even today are conserved in better condition than the ruins at Chiapas and Yukatan, which are situated at lower tropical parts of the country where as Mitla is situated at higher altitude above the sea level.

The city of San Pablo de Villa de Mitla was founded by the Spaniards, corruption of the Aztec name Mictalan, which means The place of the Dead . the Zapotec name of the site was Lyobaa which means The Place of Rest. Five groups form the bulk of the accessible structures at Mitla, and include different buildings organised around central patios. These are the Catholic Church Group (Grupo de Iglesias), the Group of the Columns or Hall of the Monoliths, the Arroyo Group, the Adobe Group and the South Group. These structures include elegant residential complexes, temples and several burial tombs located underneath the patios and buildings. The tombs when discovered were found to be empty.

The most interesting is the Hall of Columns, and the very long and wide row of huge stone columns running down the centre of the hall. The columns, we were told, were cut from a single piece of hollow volcanic stone. The construction of the stone walls appears to have been the same for all groups: a core of mud and stone covered with plaster or well-cut trachyte rock, brought from mountains queries seven or eight kilometers away. The weight of each column has been calculated to be more than six tons. The geometric patterns called grecas (Greeks) seen on some of the stone walls and door frames are made from thousands of cut, polished stones that are fitted together without mortar, set upon and adjusted in their places without any visible joints. Although the stone pillars are still standing intact, the roof supported by them was long destroyed.

The ancient Egyptians brought lime stone from all over the Nile delta and Aswan which is at a distance of more than 400kms, also from Arabia, to build their Pyramids. Solar Stonehenge in Wiltshire (UK) was buith with Bluestone, Sarsen, Welsh Sandstone dedicated to the worship of the sun and moon and human sacrifice. The Avebury(UK) Mololith Columns seems to have been dedicated to more human themes. The strong sexual symbolism, in evidence in the way the triangular and columnar stones were paired together, in conjunction with the elaborate funeral celebrations, show us that the cycle of birth, life and death was very important in Neolithic times.

The interior and exterior of these halls are carved in a geometrical design and must have involved great time and effort on part of the artisans. The complicated and detailed designs on the stones, reminded me of the passion and obsession of Michelangelo, who like the Greeks, always wanted to carve his statues from the single blocks of marble, and with great care and labour, went to the village of Carrara for its white marble and to the village of Pietra Santa, not only for supervising the cutting of the blue-grey rocks but lugged them down himself and carved the immortal masterpieces which we enjoy looking at today.

Posted by The Islander 05:05 Archived in Mexico Tagged mountains lakes beaches churches landscape bus monuments backpacking air-travel Comments (0)

MEXICO- MONTE ALBÁN (STATE OF OAXACA)

Monuments of Monte Albán -The Ancient Capital of Zapotec

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The State of Oaxaca, adjoining State of Guerrero, its Valles Centrales (Central Valleys) are full of remarkable ruins of prehistoric sites of its people, these ruins of pyramids, terracsa and mountain walls, scattered upon its ridges and hill tops, at many inaccesible places small plots of cultivation, remind you that the ancient inhabitants of Oaxaca were busy in cultivation, its villages and markets bustling with creative arts, colourful textiles.On the Sierra Norte are the forested high peaks, to the South, across the mountain ranges, its fabulous coast and beaches, which today have become the centre of toursim.

Monte Albán (White Mountain) a few kms. west of Oaxaca city, is the ancient capital city of Zapotec people. We were amazed at the terraces and courtyards, high mountain walls which were cut away and flattened from the mountain peaks. It gave us the sensation of being at an isolated and solitary place of mysterious landscape, hinged upon the top of the mountain, a haze of vapour and heat wrapping the whole area, making it ethereal. All the ancient monuments of the prehistoric times, tell us about the toil of the ancient man in the construction of such sites, uncalculable time employed, under the authority of the ruler, without regard to the labour of generations in completion of these pyramids, temples of religious ceremonies, eternal fires burning on the mountain tops. The elite of the region buried their dead in the tombs, its maze of tunnels and staircases, is awesome.

In the time of Zapotecs El Monte Albán was the center of cultured, organised agriculturist and religious society, its elite lived in splendid dwellings with gardens and terraces, courtyards to play Ball game (Juego de Pelota) in the Gran Plaza of the city, where you will see many remains of temples of worship. Mexico was a society dominated by priests and religious ceremonies were all important.

Posted by The Islander 05:13 Archived in Mexico Tagged mountains beaches churches buildings landscape bus monuments backpacking air-travel Comments (0)

MEXICO - OAXACA CITY

The vibrant and beautiful city of Mexico

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View Vamos a Mexico. (Mexico Here we Come) on The Islander's travel map.

DSC05267.jpg03/10/2008

We left our backpacks in the room at Hostel Pochon (checkout time 11.00hrs) and went out, found a laundry and left our dirty clothes there and strolled up the street. The girl at the checkout at hostel Pochon suggested Hostel San Mateo, a dreary place at 340 pesos per night. So we walked on and entered Calle Faustino G. Olivera no. 203. A woman was cleaning the steps and the door was open, we could see a very clean patio, with a fountain in the centre and trees and potted plants, so I said good morning and enquired if she rented rooms for travellers. The house was newly painted and looked like a private house. The lady very graciously told us to wait, went inside and a few minutes later, came back with another lady, who was the owner.

We said good morning again and were told that rooms were available for rent. So we entered the house and chose the room on the first floor, a very clean room with fresh bed clothes, two beds, bed side table lamps and a table and chair to sit on, with a potted plant, in which later I found a huge butterfly, snuggled among its leaves. Attached bath room was gleaming clean as was the whole house, inside and out.

The rate for the room was 430 pesos per night, but after talking about the world economic situation in general and the economic situation in Mexico in particular, higher prices of corn, wheat and rice in Mexico and how the tourism had caused the prices of hotel accommodation to shoot up, the rate was brought down to 350 pesos. Both parties were satisfied and we went back to hostel Pochon, took our backpacks and settled in our new lodgings. The huge butterfly had not stirred a bit. May be it was the approaching Siesta Time for the resident butterfly too.

The tourist guides describe Oaxaca as one of Mexico's beautiful and vibrant cities and this is true. A colonial city with tree shaded Central Square (EL Zocalo), its Cathedral and many churches, art galleries and even a book store selling English books. It is city to relax, to take cooking lessons and learn spanish. (The young woman running Hostel Pochon also gave cooking lessons and charged US$20.00 per lesson). Calles Alcala and Garcia Vigil, two parallel streets will take you down to the city centre and you can sit on the terrace of a Cafe or a restaurant, have fresh fruit juice, sip a cold Corono or Dos Equis, maybe a Mojito or two ( a mojito is a traditional Mexican cocktail that consists of five ingredients: white rum, cane sugar (traditionally cane juice), lime juice, sparkling water, and mint leaves) and then stroll further down to the muncipal markets in calle 20 de Septiembre (on this date in 1596 was founded the city of Monterey).

There are two municipal markets, in one you will find clothes, hats, handicrafts etc, and in the other, just across the street, a maze of stalls selling fresh bread and cakes, pastries and chocolates, food and spices. A separate section is just for cooked food, fried and grilled meat an sausages, green chillies and fried grass hoppers. For 50 pesos you can have a basket of 500gms grilled meat. Salads are 10 pesos each, tomatoes, onions, guacamole, cucumbers, a real delight. Fried grasshoppers are very popular and women hawkers sell mounds of this delicacy on the streets and inside the market. Alex and me had a plate each. Crunchy and tasty. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Posted by The Islander 10:37 Archived in Mexico Tagged landscapes mountains beaches churches buildings monuments backpacking air-travel Comments (0)

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