If one thing makes México special (and pointing out just one doesn´t ever make it justice), it is the vast amount of ruins from various ancient–and very advanced–civilizations that exist throughout the country. Every single one of these archaeological sites, be it Mayan, Aztec, Olmec, Zapotec or other, uncover mysteries that give us just tiny clues to understand the way these people lived, celebrated, adored, communicated, calculated and sustained themselves.
During my recent travel as a Mexico Today ambassador to the magical city of Oaxaca, I visited the ancient ruins of Monte Albán, just a 10 minute trip from the city. This was not my first visit here, it was my fifth. That´s just how much I love Monte Albán.
What made it even a more special visit this time is that the Mexico Today group had two very special guides to share with us what little is actually known about these mystical Zapotec ruins. Little is known because by the time the colonizers arrived, the place had already been abandoned for centuries.
What we do know is that the name Monte Albán literally means “White Mountain” because when colonizers arrived the valley was covered by a tree that produces white flowers, covering it all in a blanket of pure whiteness.
We also know that the Zapotecs had a very advanced knowledge of astronomy because of the observatory that still exists.
One of the most interesting discoveries in Monte Alban was that of Los Danzantes. These large engraved rocks with figures of people in different poses were falsely believed to be representations of individuals dancing. Now it is known that these “pictures” are actually medical documents depicting people with medical conditions such as a breeched birth, a humpback and dwarfism, among others.
Zapotecs also had a numbering system which is visible throughout the site.
What is most impressive, and mind-boggling, is how they managed to level flat a mountaintop which is many, many hours walking distance from the nearest water source and sits 1400 ft from the valley floor, to build massive structures and temples for this, the Zapotec main civic-ceremonial center. This is the grandest mystery of all and one of the reasons why this place imbues magic and mysticism all around.
I encourage you to teach your children about the ancient cultures that make México a unique place. You can start by watching together this video I recorded where the brothers Ulises and Apolo Bonilla Martínez from Turismo El Convento de Oaxaca give us an insider’s tour of their Monte Albán.
Have you been to Oaxaca and to Monte Albán? Which ruins have you visited?
Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the México Today Program. I am also being invited to an all-expenses paid trip to Oaxaca as part of my role. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own.
I’ve never been to Oaxaca, but it looks magical! So much rich history. Thanks for sharing!
And I only showed you a tiny, tiny bit! There is so much art, culture and beauty that you would fall madly in love
Great video and post! Really makes you feel like you are there experiencing the culture firsthand.
thanks! I really wished everyone could experience this!
Still SO need to get here. A must on my next trip to Oaxaca.
Stay Adventurous, Craig
Oh, no! You missed that trip, didn´t you? I went back on Monday and should have dragged you with me!
It looks so beautiful in Oaxaca! I’ve only been to Cancun and Riviera Maya (very tourist of me, I know). I must explore more!
That´s a great start! Riviera Maya has everything to offer. I lived there for a year and still feel like it´s home
We´ll make it happen….you´ll see!!
Like you, I had the privilege of visiting Oaxaca when I lived in Mexico. In fact, that experience taught me so much about a proud, modern, and sophisticated country, with a deep history and rich in natural and human resources. So different from what most people think about Mexico! Your post inspires people to dig deeper and learn more. Our kids, all of us, should learn about these civilizations, no matter your background because when combined with the studies of other peoples, we can discern patterns that partly explain poverty and conceptions of authority, to name a few defining conditions. I LOVED the video, too!
I couldn´t have said it better! Mexico is definitely sophisticated and I think that takes most people by surprise.
I really do hope my posts inspire just a tiny bit for others to dig deeper and allow themselves the Mexico experience.
So much to enrich our child´s life SO close and accessible to us!
I would love to visit Oaxaca…. looks so stunning and beautiful. Can’t you find a space in your suitcase for me ?
You would go CRAZY over the food!!! Seriously, you should look into cooking classes in Oaxaca. I hear they are amazing
Love the post & the video. Oaxaco is a beautiful place. You really brought up a very important point to make sure to teach our children about the ancient cultures of Mexico. Thank you.
Thanks for watching the video! I made it with mucho amor.
I am planning to immerse my daughter in the ancient cultures of México as soon as she´s old enough to appreciate it and grasp the importance of having a heritage from a country that´s so rich in history. Really gives you perspective and a sense of being
Ana, this is great! You really included a lot of great historic details here, which is so fun and interesting! I am totally into Mexican history…and especially PREhistory! LOVE IT! =)
I’m dying to go on vacation, and you just made it worse with those beautiful photos! I love history/culture based vacations. Will have to add this to my ‘places to visit’ list.
Great post! It was an incredible day, and the setting was… I have no words.
I learned a lot from that video that I didn’t know! I’ve only been to the ruins at Teotihuacán, but can’t wait to explore more of México in the coming years. That engraved rock in the photo is absolutely beautiful!
oaxaca is a place I am interested in moving to in about 3 months. I am having a hard time understanding the place. I asked around and I understood it to be a state but you published the word city. i was told it was very big and I need to narrow it down very soon. thank you in advance. like your blog.
It’s my dream to live in Oaxaca for at least some months one day. Oaxaca is a very large state. Oaxaca City is its capital and one of the most beautiful and artistic cities in Mexico. Oaxaca has huge mountain ranges and valleys, as well as a vast coastline on the Pacific Ocean.
Best of luck!
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