Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15TH, 1999 -- OAXACA & MITLA RUINS (CONT.)

We go to the ruins in the village of Mitla. There are cobblestone streets and chickens walking around outside. I ask our guide if the chickens, not being fenced in, run away or get stolen. He says no. Kind of like cats or dogs, I guess they know where home is.

The car is bouncing on these roads so much I can't even write! We see some cool-looking cactus fences. They are literally rowrs of straight vertical cacti, side by side in a row, 4-12 feet high, 8 inches wide, forming a fence. No branch offshoots, just vertical. The fence is held together by horizontal wooden branches at the 3-foot level tied on with metal wire.

After seeing the ruins, we shop in a marketplace right next to the parking lot. This is the best stuff we've seen yet, and very cheap. (But our guide later says there are much better places to get Indian artifacts, and takes Amy there.) Our guide says the people in the village market might make 200 pesos a day.

One old woman seems particularly desperate. She insists on showing us a shirt, over and over. We keep saying "No, gracias." but she won't go away. Other women are nicer to us. No men here.

We see black polished vases that apparently are unique to Oaxaca. We see beautiful hand-painted sculptures. Brown clay statuettes. We buy quite a bit of stuff, and the women are always having to get change from each other. One women grudgingly offers me a small clay bird because she can't get 10 pesos change for me, from the 100 pesos I've given her for a small dragon.

Sometimes in Oaxaca they'll have a big party and just close off the street for the party. We're now only about 250 miles from Mexico City. The small village at Mitla: stucco buildings, often cracking or "peeling" stucco. On the main road, there are rows and rows of shops selling Indian art, bright-colored rugs. Paved street, but many bumps. Occasionally, we see a sign "Tope" and a wide speed bump. I see a sign "no consumas drogas" -- "don't use drugs," I assume.

Just outside the village is an open land fill. It's just a dump. Filthy mud mounds of dirt and charred grey paper spotted with bright pieces of blue or red plastic. Small threads of smoke rise up from the burning. Occasionally by the roadside there's burning garbage with no one to tend it. Our guide says people don't care if there's a fire. There's plenty of garbage along the roadside. Nicolas says people are raised to just throw garbage anywhere.

We're high up in the mountains and the roads are very twisty. Small cement posts line the roadside: half white at the top, half black at the bottom. Some posts have been knocked over as though a car went off the road! The guardrails along the precipitous drop are sporadic. Sometimes it's clear that the mountain face has been cut away for the road, as we drive through an area with a sheer vertical rock wall.

We're at the same height as the clouds up here. We see weird riverbed-like rock formations. There are really big floods here which wash away sections of the land, leaving little "toadstools", then after the floods they become a dry riverbed. Our guide says that around San Cristobal it's a semi-desert (like here in Oaxaca) because the mountains block rainfall.

There's a triangular groove to one side of the road for drainage. I see a raven-like bird, a "buitres", black with brown wingtips. These birds are found all over Mexico, including Chiapas (buzzards, too). It's cooler up here in the mountains.

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