We gathered in the reception of the hotel. To one side a shrine had been set up acknowledging the passing of a member of the hotel staff. We were to see these all over the town during our time in Oaxaca.
It was another bright and sunny day and we drove out of Oaxaca a short way to the archeological site of Monte Alban. This was the powerful city of the Zapotec people who lived there from 500 BC to 800 AD when they abandoned it and the Maztecs took it over.
It was about 8.30 when we arrived and the day was warming up. The hat sellers were setting out their stall – their wares to be much needed later. The whole area was very much larger than the archeological sites we had seen before. There are no pyramids, but huge platforms on the north to south axis of the large area. In the centre is a broad plaza with what is thought to be an observatory in the middle. On either side of the plaza are the remains of large buildings, including the royal palace. The location of the City is on the smoothed out top of one of seven hills. A plan of the site was helpful…..
Looking back from the top of the southern plaza we saw the royal place to our right and the tombs where the amazing jewellery was found that we were to see later in the cultural centre. Another new feature for us was the ball court.
Tucked away to the side of the site, this ball game was a ritual frequently performed when rain was required (I can’t quite make the connection). An interesting feature was that the winner was often sacrificed at the end of the game. Not much of an incentive to win methinks, but apparently it was a great honour for you and your family. I am still not sure.
On the way back from Monte Alban we visited a cemetery where all was busy. Although not a public holiday, there were lots of people with brooms, brushes and buckets of water sprucing up the graves and decorating them with all sorts of Day of the Dead accessories and items and things that the dead person enjoyed in life. Whole families were clustered around the graves, drinking and eating and having their photos taken. A man played a guitar. It was all very convivial. Apparently many will come back at midnight (the 2nd November is All Souls Day, the Day of the Dead) to celebrate the deceased with drinks and food. A very different take on death and cemeteries to ours…….. the marigold was a prominent feature.
Back at the hotel we were given the afternoon off and Monica and I spent a very jolly time strolling about and doing a little retail therapy and enjoying the trappings of the Fiesta – even the bread was dressed up!
We also visited the Cultural Museum where the jewellery found in the tomb at Monte Alban is displayed. It is amazing – pieces you would love now. Oaxaca is very nice town although apparently not as large as I previously reported…… apologies for incorrect information!
I have to report here a less than satisfactory aspect of our afternoon. The posting of our postcards. Having found the post office, affixed additional stamps to those cards still wanting and obtained directions to the postbox – we still got it wrong. We found a nice little box outside – slightly rusting but sporting a padlock. We knew by the hollow sound our cards made that we had got it wrong. Definitely what Monica’s Aunty Sylvia would call ‘not reliable’. We were subsequently advised by others in the group that we had walked past the real, currently in use boxes. Apologies to those who usually receive postcards. Not this time, I fear!
The whole group, bar one(!), had decided to have their faces painted in order to join in the festivities. 5.30 pm was makeup time and we waited patiently until we were all painted up before we took to the streets.
What a day!