Almost everyone who visits Oaxaca, Mexico goes on a tour of Monte Alban. These are the incredible Zapotec/Mixtec ruins, built a millennium ago atop a nearby mountain. Nobody really knows why they were built so high, or exactly what they were used for. Personally I’d been there at least five times already with family and friends who came to visit while I was in Oaxaca, and every time I’m still amazed at what the ancients had constructed.
One day I went to visit Saul and Alma, some friends who make the folk art fantasy animals called alebrijes. They live in the village of Arrezola, just at the base of Monte Alban. We were standing outside their gate when Saul remarked at how he used to climb up to the ruins regularly as a child, and still does occasionally. He said it only takes an hour or two from his house, and I made an appointment right then and there to climb with him and his family.
The trail we took is as old as the ruins, and I thought about all the people that had preceded me as I climbed. Alma and their two daughters came along, and my husband as well. We talked a lot about their village life and how their customs are a mix of modern and ancient. They have always lived in the same village, and always look up at their historical roots on the mountain. I told them how many times I’ve moved in my life and how I don’t feel strong ties to any particular place. I think they felt a little sorry for me.
These are the experiences and connections that keep me going back to Oaxaca again and again.
By Shelley Tennysen