Monte Albán, Oaxaca

Latitude 17.04433°N Longitude 96.76746°W

Saturday, September 14, 2002

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Diary:

Had an early start to go visit nearby Monte Albán, the ruins of the ancient Zapotec capital. Wonderful quiet ruins on a tall hilltop overlooking Oaxaca, carpeted by lush green lawn. The well preserved Ball Court was fascinating - one can only imagine how these ancient Aztec ball games were played, in which players were sacrificed or immediately decapitated if they made a "wrong" play. Cricket could sure use a rule like that.

After that Keiko went off to the markets: Mercado de Artesanías and the huge Central de Abastos. Central de Abastos (Supplies Center) is a hive of activity daily, but Saturday is their big day. You'll see over 800 small shops selling food, vegetables, electronics, clothes, shoes, etc. If you look long enough, you can find almost anything there.

I just went walking around town. At the Zócalo millions of small stalls had sprung up overnight with vendors selling everything imaginable. Including huge quantities of musical CDs, all cheaply bootlegged from ripped MP3s I noticed with great amusement. The hit pop single of the moment is Asereje, by Las Ketchup. I strongly warn everyone to avoid listening to that song at all costs if they value their sanity. Right now the song appears to be contained in Mexico, but there is concern it could escape and infect the whole world. But the thing is, it contains the catchiest hook ever written. It is so hugely popular in Mexico right now that no matter where you are, any time of the day, if you strain your ears hard enough you can hear it being blared out somewhere. As ignorant, unsuspecting tourists, Keiko and I immediately got addicted to the song and now break out humming bits of it at random, despondently resigned to letting it play itself out of our central nervous systems (a feeling not unlike waiting for the effects of a bad acid trip to wear off).

At 6pm we met up again at the hotel and set off to the Zócalo which was by then positively throbbing. We weren't sure whether it was all due to Independence Day on Monday, or whether the stalls are set up every weekend. Whatever the reason, the town center was completely transformed into a fairground.

We ate delicious beef tacos and wandered around. On the way to Santo Domingo we encountered a Carnivale-style street parade with band, dancers, whirling characters and fireworks. We fell in with the huge throng of people as the procession hopped, whirled and bounced its way through the streets and ended at the Basilica de la Soledad. It was there we learned it was to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Academy of Dermatology! Umm, OK! Mexicans obviously do not need much reason to throw big street parades! And that's not a bad thing.

After the parade we wandered back to the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. At the church a wedding was in full swing. We got some capucino frios from the Italian Coffee Company, sat outside in the cool evening air and watched Oaxaca life swarm all around us.


Photos: (click on images to see full size)

The plaza at Monte AlbánThe remains of the ancient ball courtChilies are plentiful in these parts!Vendor grinds up a blend of chocolate, cinnamon and almondsNo refrigeration neccessary for these chickens!Street parade celebrating 50th Anniversary
of the Academy of Dermatology!
Street parade celebrating 50th Anniversary
of the Academy of Dermatology!Keiko joins the wild revelryMore street parade revelryThe parade approaches its climaxThe parade ends with spectacular fireworksKeiko is hopeful of joining the troupe
A wedding at the Iglesia de Santo Domingo


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