January 19, 2017

Tule, Mezcal, San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya, and Mitla

When we travel to a new place, we use all available resources to know what there is out and about the city. In Oaxaca's case, that also included the cab driver, Marcelo, who took us from the airport to the hotel.

(Short aside here: We had booked a car through the hotel to pick us up at the airport for a nominally higher cost than a street cab. That is one thing I like - having a car waiting for me at the airport. Sometimes it doesn't work out -  the driver wasn't waiting. That completely eliminates any reason to pre-book. I won't wait for the car. So we just took an airport taxi, got Marcelo, whom we used to drive us around while in town. The hotel wasn't too happy with us, but I told them that the driver wasn't there when we were.)

Marcelo told us that the "Oldest tree in the world" was very close to Oaxaca. We looked it up, and sure enough, either the oldest, or maybe the widest, tree in the world was in the town of Tule, a hop, skip, and a jump from Oaxaca.

And it is in a nice little public square. You can see the City Hall below, and the tree to the right:

It is a big, old tree:


If you can't read all that, it says that the tree is a Taxodium Mucronatum, more than 2,000 years old, a circumference of 58 meters, height of 42 meters, diameter of 14.05 meters, a volume of 816,829 cubic meters, and a weight of 636,107 tons (I assume metric tons)


It is in front of this cute little church.


It is one big tree!



This tree isn't quite so big.


It is the son of the biggest tree!


They had a little garden, with these cool plants.


After we left Tule, Marcelo asked if we wanted to see the San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya church. Of course!

We were glad we did. The church was build in the late 16th century by the Dominicans (the Dominicans were in charge of the souls in this part of Mexico. The Jesuits were in charge of the souls in the north)

It was a painted church, and retained a lot of its charm


As in a lot of these old churches, they have statues that they parade around town during feast days.

I am sure that this one is used on Palm Sunday:

The details were really nice. It was nice to think that these were all done by people of faith as part of their tradition of worship


There was also a very old organ in the church - from  the early 18th century (1730 according to some notes)

It was really something


Most interesting were the faces painted onto the pipes:


They still play it!



But I wouldn't want to be the guy who pumps the bellows.


So off we went to the most touristy and commercial part of our trip.

The obligatory Mezcaleria!

Here we are with the "pineapples" of the agave plants.


After they are harvested, they cooked for a couple of days on charcoal.

Then they are ground up on this stone mill:


With a horse!



Then distilled:


Three times:


Finally, we had to try some.


We have to try plenty:

And eat those damned chipolinos.

Grasshoppers. You can keep 'em as far as I am concerned.


After all that, we finally were on  the way to our main destination, the archeological ruins at Mitla.

We've started hiring guides at these places, especially when we haven't done our homework. Mitla is a Zapotec site. While the area has been occupied since about 100 AD (or common era, CE, for you sticklers) but the ruins date from mainly about 800. The Zapotecs were one of many civilizations that existed in this part of the world. 

One of the reasons we like getting local guides is that you get the local propaganda about the history of the place. Our guide was Zapotec. He pointed out that the Zapotes had named this place "Lyobaa" or the Place of Rest. But when the Spaniards arrived, it was being called Mictlan, or The Place of Death, by the Mixtes. (Oh, complicated. And the Mixte had aligned themselves with the Aztecs, who, of course, had dominated the are when they arrived. The Zapotecs saw the Spaniards as saviors, so they helped them out, thinking that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Big mistake)

It is a very cool site.

The details are not carved, but mosaics. The stones are several feet long, and they make the decorations by pushing in and pulling out stones:

The guide said that it took about 100 years to make all the buildings. They were used for religious purposes.

The Zapotecs were one of the few new world people who had developed writing. We didn't see any writing at this site.


Amazing classic Greek Key designs in the walls.



Some of these walls have been reconstructed, but many were extant.


These pillars were quarried, and worked, on the hills about 5 miles from the site.

They held up a roof.


This gives you a sense of scale.


They had four tombs in one of the courtyards. You could enter one of them


You had to crawl on your knees to get into the tombs.



An SP in front of one of the walls.


You can see what a beautiful day it was. The temperature was probably 75 or 80. A little warm, but not bad at all!


When we got back to Oaxaca, we had to go to the Cafe Brujula, with the several dissolute expats.


We had some chocolate.
It was delicious.