I Moved To Oaxaca

Monday, September 06, 2004

And see it he did: we went back to Danguilac this Sunday.

I'd arranged to meet Francisco, our guide, between 8 and 9am, but we didn't get there until closer to 10a. Turns out they don't change their clocks in San Juan, however, so we were right on time. Now, when I'd been in San Juan earlier in the week, Francisco said that the ruins were about 3km outside of town. He just didn't mean San Juan, so we collected Francisco's friend Cesar and drove maybe five minutes up a steep dirt road to a tiny little pueblo called El Porvenir Quiatoni, where it seemed that nobody spoke Spanish. All the town's kids collected in a knot and gawked at us.

We walked through town and started down the hill through corn and maguey fields. The ruins are on an isolated ridge about halfway between Quiatoni and San Juan. Lots of pottery sherds, although nothing fantastic like at Pueblo Viejo, adobe walls, plazas, some mortarless stone walls. And a pile of rocks in the middle of a plaza with a ... well, it sure looks like a Shiva lingum, with a face and red coloring around the mouth. Clearly recently put there, and clearly still being worshipped. Greg asked Francisco about it, and he said yeah, the campesinos come here. We both got the feeling, too, that Francisco and Cesar were scoping us out, making sure we were okay. Francisco also mentioned that, while the site is unexplored, the Saturday before we showed up, a party from INAH, the Mexican archeological folks, had come out to see the ruins as well. Pretty curious timing if you ask me.

Well, after exploring the ruins we had to go back up the hill to get the car. Poor Greg! (I suggest you read his blog to get his side of it, too.) While Greg sat in the car and recovered under the curious gaze of about 20 kids, Francisco, Cesar, and I set off to get some more water and some sodas. I hadn't see any on our drive in, but that's because Quiatoni isn't at all set up for visitors: we squeezed between houses, cut through people's yards and across patios before stopping in a little patio while some guy opened up what looked like a shed but turned out to be the town abarrotes, or corner grocery. We sat down and Francisco popped open a trio of ice-cold cokes -- damn! they're awfully bad for you but they taste so, so good -- while Francisco explained to the woman behind the counter who I was and why were here. In Zapotec, and when I tried to talk to her in Spanish I got no response so I don't think she speaks it. During our little ruins exploration, Greg and I chatted in English and Francisco and Cesar chatted in Zapotec. We finished the cokes and I grabbed a couple of waters for Greg.

We dropped Francisco and Cesar off at the Palacio in San Juan, and thanked them for spending half their Sunday tromping around with us. They asked when we would come back, inviting us to come back out and visit. We asked Francisco if we could pay him for his services, but he said no. Then Greg asked if we could make a donation for the town, and he agreed that would be good. Yay.

We then took off to get some lunch in San Bartolo as it was about 4pm and we were famished, and San Juan doesn't have any restaurants. We ended up at Restaurant Mary, which has a bit of a gnat problem, but the food was good and the sodas also ice-cold, and after we finished lunch the entire family came out to chat with us about why we were there. "To visit San Juan?! Why? Ruins -- oh, in Mitla? In San Juan?! Really? I've never heard of ruins there." was a pretty typical conversation. We had the map with us and showed everybody the mark that lead us there in the first place. It ended up being a very long lunch as we chatted with people, who all seemed to speak Spanish and NOT Zapotec -- strange, as we were only ten miles away from where the opposite was true. But they also invited us to come back and visit, and the kids all practiced their three or four English words on us as they waved goodbye.


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