Thousands of Years of History Within 50 km
- Published on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 12:27
- By Joe Mathews
History, culture, and architecture are no strangers to Oaxaca, and their influence is evident in the region's various archaeological sites. I had the pleasure of visiting Monte Albán, Yagul, and Mitla during my winter migration to Oaxaca's warmer climes. To get to these sites, you can go with one of the tour companies or travel on your own; there are pros and cons for both. With a tour company you don´t have to worry about transportation and a guide will attend to all of your curiosities. However, those who enjoy more lenient schedules or wish to explore areas not included with the tours may elect to make the trip themselves. If you venture on your own, you can visit just the places of your choice and stay as long as you wish. You'll just need a map.
Monte Albán, declared a UNESCO site in 1987, was inhabited by Olmecs, Zapotecs, and Mixtecs beginning prior to 500 BC. It's located 10 kilometers from the center of Oaxaca and includes an on-site museum. It is a large site with many structures. Traveling with the benefit of a guide, I learned that about 20 percent of Monte Albán dates back to the site's original construction.
Yagul, located 36 kilometers from the center of Oaxaca - near Mitla - is typically not featured in tour packages from the city center. To get there you can spend just 20 pesos on a colectivo, or shared taxi, from Oaxaca City to the road that leads up to the site. From there, Yagul is about a 20 minute walk away. Human occupation around Yagul is believed to date back to 3000 BC, and the construction of the site to 500-700 AD. The site features one of the larger pelota courts of the region.
Mitla, declared a UNESCO site in 2010, is located 40 kilometers from the center of Oaxaca, near Yagul. Mitla has been inhabited since the classical era, and according to The Columbia Encyclopedia, "Mitla is thought to represent the highest expression of Zapotec architectural talent, although the mosaics have been attributed to the Mixtec, who conquered Mitla, as well as Monte Albán."
If history, culture, and architecture strike your fancy, explore some of the archaeological sites in Oaxaca. Breathe the air there. Walk the same land as those who did before us many moons ago. Imagine what life was like then and there.