Yesterday morning Mike and I drove 30 minutes to Monte Alban…a gigantic Zapotec ruins on top of one of the mountains surrounding Oaxaca City…passing early morning walkers along the way. We were the sole visitors this morning in this ancient ruins…meditating on the lives of this great indigenous people…looking sadly at the carvings of naked vanquished enemies. And we are surprised that the descendents of this proud people are standing up to their oppressors and shouting Basta!?
Around 500 BC ancestors of Oaxaca’s Zapotec people founded what many believe to be Americas’ earliest metropolis. They raised monumental platforms, pyramids, palaces and ceremonial courts. Encompasing 3 sq miles, Monte Alban flourished for centuries as a city with as many 40,000 at it’s height a thousand years later until an invasion of Mixtecs from the north who became the ruling class in a number of valley city-states. The blend of Mixtec and Zapotec art and architecture sometimes led to new forms especially visible at the sites of Yagul and Mitla.
Monte Alban is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
By 10 am we were drinking bad coffee with Mirella, my Australian friend and my friend Sharon in the Zocalo.
Then I walked across the Zocalo to visit Max at a sidewalk cafe. After awhile, I received a call from Gerardo. “Come to Bardo’s and bring some beer and cheap mescal,” says Gerardo. Just as I hung up, an old Mexican comes by our table selling a three-liter gas can full of mescal…smooth yellow mescal…”anejo” (aged) mescal. I bought a liter of water, dumped it out, gave Max a liter and took off for the apartment to get Mike who had collapsed in his room earlier for a nap. “Hey, Mike, get up, you want to party?” And off we went to Huayapam…of course getting lost in a small village but finding our way through dirt roads to Bardo’s house. I gave out my gifts I had brought for the family and Bardo sent out for great pastor tacos with those glorious sweet roasted onions while Gerardo regaled us with the story of his march, his hard life in Mexico and ten years in the US while poor Bardo, tired of listening to Gerardo’s untranslated (slurred by this time) English, finally retreated with his wife Mica to their bedroom to watch TV.
Dodging the burning tires and barricades through the Centro, we finally made our way home at 2am…eating left-over vegetable soup and guacamole before collapsing into our beds.