Oaxaca and Monte Alban (World Heritage)

The area was a settlement area for Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs for over 1500 years. The Zapotecs built a huge cult center with monumental buildings on the plateau of Monte Albán. The heyday of Monte Albán lasted from 300 to 700 AD. Not far away, the Spanish founded the city of Antequera in 1528, which was renamed Oaxaca in 1872. The old town with its beautiful squares and sacred buildings has retained the charm of the colonial era.

Oaxaca and Monte Alban: Facts

Official title: Old town of Oaxaca and ruins of Monte Alban
Cultural monument: settlement area for Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs for over 1500 years; archaeological site Monte Albán with 37 km²: a. on an artificial plateau of about 300×200 m excavations of temples, pyramids and graves such as the seven deer complex and grave no. 104 with the representation of the corn god; the colonial city of Oaxaca laid out on a checkerboard pattern
Continent: America
Country: Mexico
Location: Oaxaca, southeast of Mexico City, and Monte Albán, south of Oaxaca
Appointment: 1987
Meaning: colonial heritage not far from the most important temple city of the Zapotecs

Oaxaca and Monte Alban: History

around 800-300 BC Chr. probably first colonization by Olmecs
300 BC Chr.-Chr. Born Resettlement of Monte Albán
Chr. Born-900 Conversions and monumental new buildings, including Step pyramids on terraces, by Zapotecs
900-1250 Construction of graves; The Zapotecs gave up Monte Albán
1250-1521 Mixtec immigration
1458 Occupation by the Aztecs under Moctezuma I (1440-69)
1521 Capture of Oaxaca by Spanish conquerors
1544 Start of construction on Oaxaca Cathedral
1682 Construction of the baroque basilica Nuestra Señora de la Soledad begins
1720-33 Reconstruction of the cathedral after earthquake (1714)
1812 Capture of Oaxaca by the rebels around José María Morelos
1847-52 the later Mexican President Benito Juárez is governor of Oaxaca

Götterdämmerung in clear light

Wrapped in purple robes and scented clouds of copal, men move through the amphitheater in ritual steps. Her magnificent headdress made of eagle and quetzal feathers waves gracefully through the mild evening air. A deafening roar of rattles, bells and trumpets determines the rhythm of the movements. It is the last Monday in July on which the men dance the Zapotec feather dance on Oaxaca’s Cerro del Fortín, with which they commemorate the Spanish conquest of Central America.

According to thereligionfaqs, the dances performed every year at the Guelaguetza Festival are staged by the Ministry of Tourism. Nevertheless, they affirm what one becomes aware of in the markets and villages of Oaxaca: Oaxaca is still today indigenous. Female indígenas mainly wear wide skirts and blouses embroidered with floral motifs, the traditional Tehuana costume.

Would it astonish us today more than the people back then if priests or dancers suddenly appeared out of nowhere from the depths in the sanctuaries in the middle of the plateau of Monte Albán, the “White Mountain”? In any case, an underground corridor led directly to this area from the north side, which allowed priests to perform this magical staging during the ceremonies.

A plateau of enormous dimensions was once wrested from the massive hilltop of the White Mountain by human hands in order to build a strictly symmetrical, almost unadorned complex. Like a huge, sky-high altar, the temple district of the formerly most important city of the Zapotecs bears witness to their glory days in the first millennium AD. The view from the south platform over the plateau, its temples and palaces is sublime; the view over the valley of Oaxaca and the surrounding mountain scenery is almost overwhelming when the slowly setting sun bathes the stone monuments in a warm, golden light.

An outstanding archaeological discovery is a building from the early period of Monte Albán, the walls of which are adorned with stone slabs engraved with famous dancers with distorted facial features and squat posture. According to another interpretation, it should not be about dancers, but about sick people or prisoners who show off their ailments. Or do their negroid facial features suggest that the first settlers here were Olmecs?

The extremely charming city of Oaxaca has retained its small-town charm to this day. The lively center of the colonial old town is the Zócalo, a park-like square flanked by arcades with shady trees and a pretty music pavilion in the French late baroque style. To the northeast of the cathedral, which was rather squat due to the danger of earthquakes, the pedestrian zone begins with its one-story patio houses, which were built from the greenish-yellow sandstone typical of the region and whose windows and balconies were closed with artistic wrought iron.

In the city’s sacred buildings, baroque and Indian style elements have been mixed. The jewel among them is the baroque church of Santo Domingo. Your interior has a whole host of geometric and naturalistic tendril ornaments made of stucco decorated with gold leaf. The high altar, lavishly dipped in gold, is particularly magnificent. The interior is most atmospheric during the late afternoon hours, when soft, yellow light falls into the church, or in the evening in the light of candles. The pre-Columbian finds of the regional museum can be reached via the double-storey cloister. Its greatest treasure is the legendary Mixtek treasure from grave number 7 of Monte Albán, discovered in 1932 and one of the best preserved finds in Mesoamerica.

Oaxaca and Monte Alban