The ancient ruins of Mitla
The next day, Thursday, we went back to Chino Tours and arranged
for a private guide again, this time to take us to several places
on the other side of the Oaxaca Valley. There was so much to see that
we had to limit the places we visited to the ancient ruins of Mitla
and Yagul, and a quick stop at the famous El Tule Tree.
Our guide for the day was a nice young man named Geraldo Pinelo.
Not only is he a federally certified tour guide (with an English
Speaking rating), he is also a trained chef and runs the
Pinelo Cooking School,
with his mother, featuring training in the classic styles of Oaxacan cuisine!
Geraldo took us, this time in a late model Nissan coupe, to the various
places we had decided to visit, giving us the history and commentary
on each place we visited, answering any individual questions we might
have, all for $15/hour for the two of us. We spent about 6 hours
travelling around with Geraldo, and it was a bargain by any measure.
The first place we visited was the ruins at Mitla. Mitla was constructed
by the Mixtec Indians around 800 A.D., roughly coincident with the downfall
of Monte Alban as a center of regional power. It is a much smaller complex,
consisting of a handful of buildings, and was probably built on an older
local Zapotec site. The architecture of Mitla is quite distinctive though,
especially noting the greco (greek-like) patterns which are intricately
worked into the structures.
Another striking thing about Mitla, which remains an active religious
center to this day, was that when the Spanish arrived in the 1500's,
they tore down the main temples on the site and built a classic
Catholic Cathedral and smaller church there, so now there is still
a town that has grown up around the site. So in one place you have both the
ancient indigenous ruins,classic Euro-Christian architecture, all esconsed in the middle
of a present day, busy, small Mexican town. It was quite something to see.