Day 3, in which we passed through 3300 years of history

Today was our first day of being offi­cial “tourists”. We went out with Jane and Nico, our guides, and five oth­er peo­ple who are stay­ing here at Casa Colo­nial. Today’s jour­ney was to the north into the val­ley of Etla.

Sec­tions of adobe wall are every where.

naked adobe

naked adobe

First we went to San Jose de Mogote to see some of the old­est struc­tures in Oax­a­ca. There are mounds through out the vil­lage, most of them have not yet been exca­vat­ed. The struc­tures were built by the Zapotecs around 1300 BCE. This site pre­dates the much more famous Mon­te Alban by about 1000 years.

This is not a mound or exca­va­tion, this is the new church in San Jose. Those are liv­ing plants in a bed built into floor of the aisle.

new church building

new church build­ing

Here is one of the first areas to be exca­vat­ed. It’s basi­cal­ly in someone’s back­yard.

built circa 1300 BCE

built cir­ca 1300 BCE

The­se steep steps go from the court­yard up to the build­ings that are at the top. The stone is held togeth­er by cement.

steps up form the courtyard

steps up form the court­yard

On the oth­er side of the mound are the­se porch­es.

porches at the base of the mound

porch­es at the base of the mound

The top hasn’t been exca­vat­ed. You can see the out­li­nes of the struc­tures as you stand here. The view is of the rest of the Etla val­ley to San Augustine and to the right along the val­ley to the city of Oax­a­ca.

the unexcavated part of the big mound

the unex­ca­vat­ed part of the big mound

There is a small muse­um in San Jose that hous­es much of the mate­ri­al from the exca­va­tions. It was built in a cou­ple of rooms of the old Hacien­da. The Hacien­da San Jose (or Hacien­da Cacique) was one of the last hacien­das to be abol­ished after the rev­o­lu­tion.

the hacienda porch

the hacien­da porch

This is one of the head­dress­es from the San Jose site. 

headdress

head­dress

This fig­ure is the only prone fig­ure from the Zapotec era that our guide knows of. 

unusual prone figure

unusu­al prone fig­ure

A lit­tle ways up the road from the court­yard and porch­es you can climb the hill and see where the ball court was. The Zapotecs played their own ver­sion of the bloody ball game that the Aztecs played in Mex­i­co City.

unexcavated ball court

unex­ca­vat­ed ball court

San Augustine Etla is also known as Vis­ta Her­mosa. It sits on the moun­tain slopes and receives a lot of water from the springs above it. In the 1883 a cot­ton mill and gen­er­at­ing plant were built here. The man­u­fac­tur­ing stopped in the mid 20th cen­tu­ry. Over the last 10 years Fran­cis­co Tole­do has over­seen it’s recre­ation as an arts cen­ter.

The pur­ple col­or in the foun­tains at the front of the build­ing was made by run­ning water infused with cochineal over the steps for a cou­ple of years. They used to be very red, now they are fad­ing to pur­ply-pink.

the new facade

the new facade

The inte­ri­or of the cen­ter is two open floors of gallery and work­shop space.

the upstairs gallery/workshop space

the upstairs gallery/workshop space

The build­ing wasn’t the only thing that got atten­tion. The grounds are won­der­ful. There is a sys­tem of linked shal­low ponds that flow from the top of the site to the front.

part of the system of ponds

part of the sys­tem of ponds

From San Augstine Etla we went to see one of the most famous pot­ters in the area. Irma Blan­co is a rec­og­nized nation­al trea­sure. She sat down and made a small statute of a mar­ket wom­an for us. It took her about 10 min­utes. In this pic­ture she’s just start­ing.

Irma Blanco creating a market lady

Irma Blan­co cre­at­ing a mar­ket lady

This is Irma’s kiln. She and her fam­i­ly fill it and then cov­er it with bro­ken tiles. It is fired with wood. 

kiln for large figures

kiln for large fig­ures

This is one of her mer­maids. She loves to add flow­ers to every­thing. The black clay dries to this light gray but it turns a light tan when it’s fired.

mermaid

mer­maid