Today was a day that affirms my belief in experiential education. We visited four separate sites outside of Oaxaca and I took away something new from each. First, Tlacochahuaya, which is a town just a few miles south. This little village has an ornately decorated churches in the plaza. It is unique not because of the detail of decoration, but because there is proof that it was built by indigenous hands. The Dominican priests came to Oaxaca in 1527, and this church was the second built in this region. To convert the natives, the priests first watched their customs. Then, they copied them. Because the native people's always had a plaza in front of their temples to perform ceremonies, the front of churches contain a courtyard, to enable the Zapotecs to assemble there. But in the corners, the priests would put statues of Saints to watch over them. After conversion, they could then build. In this church, there are a number of native touches. First, the decoration contains paintings of flowers. All the indigenous people even until today use flowers.
Furthermore, Saint Mark is painted on the ceiling with a lion. However, it was obvious that the painters had never seen a lion, and they painted right out of their imaginations.
We then went on to Mitla, an ancient burying ground. The mountain breeze, rain clouds in the sky, and tunnels made for a magical time. I have been to many ruins in Mexico, and all are special in their own way. Chichén Itzá for its size, Tulum for its beauty, Palenque for the jungle and Bonampak for its isolation. El Tajín for its detail, as well as Uxmal. And of course Teotihuacán and Tenochtitlán for their historical significance. I won't go on, lest you think that I am name dropping, but Mitla was impressive in that we were able to go into tunnels, the detail is intact, and there is a church that was built directly on top of a Zapotec temple.
What I will most remember is the town that is on all sides of the archeological site. Mitla has been continuously inhabited since the 1200s. Scientists believe that there were about 10,000 people in Mitla in the 1200 - 1300s and there are about 10,000 people there today. So, I would imagine that many of the residents of the town of Mitla today are direct descendants of those who lived here long ago.
There was much more. Zapotec weaver at Teotitlán del Valle and another gaze up at the majestic tule tree. But, this is enough for tonight. It was a wonderful day and proof for me that we learn best through experience.