I Moved To Oaxaca

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

San Jose Mogote, Take Two!

No school today, so I woke up determined to find the elusive San Jose Mogote ruins we missed during Sunday's excursion. I checked both my paper maps of the state, but neither listed a San Jose, San Jose Mogote, or a Mogote anywhere near Oax-town. Although one map did have the pyramid symbol floating between a couple of town names, which was intriguing but ultimately unhelpful. So after dropping by the post office we strolled over to the Tourist Office to ask them about San Jose Mogote. It's on their tourist map, and with some directions from the information officer, we felt like we had a chance to find it.

(For those of you with the Moon Handbooks: Oaxaca guide, you head north out of town on the free (libre) road, and turn left on the road to Nazareno -- signed, and the first possible left after the El Padrigal baleanarios. About a third of a mile later, you turn left at the bus stop shelter with the big Community Museum sign, and by that time you'll see the ruins on your left.)

We could see a crew working on some of the ruins as we drove into the center of San Jose Mogote, a tiny, tiny pueblito: the bus stop, one street, and the museum. Cement block and adobe brick houses for the most part; a couple of wood or carrizo. They don't even have their own church; it's a pretty little blue-and-white building up the road in Guadalupe.

We walked up to the museum and waited while the municipal president's wife went and got her son to open up the museum for us, and while we waited we chatted with a backpacker also waiting out front. Damian from Austin had just seen the museum and was fixin' to catch a bus back to Oax-town, but hung out when we offered him a ride back after our visit. It's a nice little museum, with a section on the finds at the site -- Olmec-influenced pottery figures, Cosijo urns, some carved stones, a pair of anthropomorphic jade figures, and a big cinnabar-colored brazier that looks awfully devilish. The second part of the museum details hacienda life in San Jose during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Then scooped up Damian and walked behind the school to an excavated pyramid. As usual, pottery sherds were everywhere underfoot. The pyramid didn't have any of the carved stones that make other pyramids so impressive, but the view from the top was lovely (and I remembered my hat this time), and the architecture was interesting: big fatty boulders on the bottom of the structures, and a modified talud and tablero (it looked to me) building style. No scapula, no jaguar mouths or milky way representations, but a couple of cool narrow stairways to the right of the main stairs. Lots of pretty flowers -- and people's houses. The site is smack-dab in the middle of the pueblito, so people's houses are on top of mounds and right next to the excavated pyramid. It was a bit like taking a tour through people's backyards.

We then walked toward the bus stop to get a look at the ballcourt. Turns out that's what the crew was working on, though they're still on the structures fronting the court itself, which was just an I-shaped mound of plant-covered dirt. The more of these we see, though, the easier it is to imagine what it looks like underneath.

But that was the whole site; maybe we were there an hour, including the museum visit. And Greg got to stuff Damian with as much pre-Hispanic history as he cared to hear. So we drove out the roundabout way, seeing the little blue-and-white church and grabbing some soda and water, then hit the highway. Ooh! Pollo asado! So we pulled over and got a grilled chicken and tortillas lunch and chatted with Damian, who spent a couple of years in Africa in the Peace Corps, and is on his last day of a two week vacation to Oaxaca. Very enjoyable. We drove him back to the Centro and said goodbye, then ducked into Moderate Shangri-la just in time to see Ana Guevara's 400-meter race -- and Mexico's only hope for a medal these games. She came in second, so everyone will have to settle for a silver medal, but still, better than nothing. And now we're here at the internet cafe, and we have the whole afternoon and evening ahead of us for mischief-making.


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