It is a good many years since I first set my heart on visiting Oaxaca and the White Acropolis that sits high atop the mountain overlooking the valley. It was to be during an eclipse and my imagination soared as I thought of watching the event while local people reenacted an ancient Mayan ceremony amongst the ruins of one of Mexico’s great archaeological sites. I was unable to go, but the area has intrigued me ever since, and when I had the chance to take a one-day tour to the city during a trip to Acapulco, I made the most of it.
Our plane left Acapulco shortly after seven in the morning and we spent a few breathtaking minutes climbing to a height that would enable us to fly over the mountains. The view of their jagged tops emerging from huge basins of cloud which poured over the sides of ridges like great waterfalls was spectacular. During the ninety minute flight, the early morning clouds disappeared to reveal the lush green vegetation and the small roads that wound their way up, down and around the mountainsides. The aerial view gives an interesting perspective to the stories of the Zápotecs and Mixtecs who inhabited this area since 900 B.C., and whose ancestors have been traced back nearly 11,000 years. It is even more fascinating to speculate on the difficulties that the Spanish Conquistadors faced when they set forth to conquer the region in the 16th century. But conquer it they did and the Marquesado del Valle (today’s Colonial City of Oaxaca) was given as a gift to Cortés by the Spanish Emperor, Charles V.
Energetic Dominican missionaries followed the Spanish, founding fabulous churches, monasteries, and convents. Many of these buildings still exist and their histories include being turned into government offices, jails and stables during the period when church and government separated. Today Oaxaca has been declared a national monument by UNESCO and the Cathedral, the Church of Santo Domingo, and the Convent of Santa Catalina (now a five-star Quinta Real hotel), have all been beautifully restored. A walk through the city reveals a shopper’s paradise of reasonably-priced gold filigree and silver handcrafted jewelry, black pottery and hand-woven crafts. The people are delightful, the food delicious, and it is definitely a place to which I will return. For more information visit www.oaxaca.travel and www.visitmexico.com See also our tv feature on Oaxaca.
Mexico. Beautiful beaches, but so much more if you take the time to explore.