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.