Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Friday, July 08, 2005

London, Oaxaca, Monte Alban and Mitla

Well, first of all, blimey! I woke up yesterday morning to a world gone mad, yet again. Hope everyone's ok after the bombs...

Oaxaca, where I currently am, is a very pleasant city. In a change to most pleasant Latin American cities in my experience, it's architecture is more "grand" than "quaint", something I welcome. There are of course a load of churches and a market, de rigeur round these parts.

The main draw for Oaxaca, though, general quality of place aside, is the proximity to Zapotec/Mixtec sites Monte Alban and Mitla. First, the former.

Monte Alban is a large collection of pyramidical temples (aren't they all?). What makes it really special is it's location. The Zapotecs levelled out the top of a large hill in a valley to build the religious centre of their city-state, so that the temples stand at the peak of the tallest mound for miles around, looking down on all sides to the valley floor some 300m below. Incredible.

The other reason Monte Alban is special is the collection of "dancer" sculpted panels found there. Rather than actually being dancers, however, the male nude figures displayed are believed to be representations of captured enemy chiefs. The idea being to show that they had been sacrificed to the gods. Hence the genital mutilation on many of the figures...

Mitla is considerably smaller, and further away, but is also cool. Being a later site than Monte Alban, it has more details intact, including some fascinating geometrical wall patterns. Depending on whom you believe, it may well have functioned as a sort of Vatican City for the Mixtecs at the time of the Spanish Conquest, where the head of their religious world lived. By that time the religious leaders were no longer the state leaders, that duty having passed to the military leaders.

I'm off to the (really) big city on the bus tomorrow night - rather than piddle around looking at other small places en route I've decided to just go straight to Mexico City and spent the remainder of my time away from home there. So that'll be what I am reporting about next time. Probably.


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