Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas in Oaxaca and Monte Albán

As we were walking through the streets of Oaxaca, we happened on a religious procession honoring the Virgin Mary. The Virgin is perhaps more important than Jesus to Mexicans, especially those who mix Catholicism with native beliefs.

In the state of Oaxaca (the capital has the same name), there are 15 different native languages spoken. The dominant local one is Zapotec, with some 500,000 speakers. Mexico´s first and only indigenous president, Benito Juarez, was a Zapotec from Oaxaca.

In a cafe on the town square we met up with Olga Rosario Avendaño and Victor Ruiz, a couple who have a news website, Olor a Mi Tierra (The Scent of My Homeland), that specializes in covering human rights, the environment and local culture of the state of Oaxaca.

Victor and Olga have both taken courses with me through the Digital Journalism Center. Their biggest audience is in Mexico City and the U.S., where residents of Oaxaca go to find work.

These angels were part of the procession mentioned above.

In the south of Mexico, native languages and culture are more important. The people here have less-European features.

Monte Albán is one of the most important pre-Columbian archeological sites in Mexico. The city was founded in 500 B.C. as a ceremonial center and was important for the next 1,300 years.

The scale of it is impressive, but it´s not as big as Teotihuacan, which is near Mexico City.

The people who built this site had a form of writing, a mix of hieroglyphics and ideographs. The stories they tell are of conquest of other local peoples. History as usual is all about war, one people taking away other people´s stuff.

This is a ball court. Players would use the angled walls, originally smooth, to steer the ball toward the goal. The ball game evidently had an astronomical significance.

At some sites, evidence suggests that the losers of a ball game were ritually sacrificed. There is no evidence of such a practice at Monte Albán.

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