Huatulco Life was inspired by people with a passion for Huatulco and the Mexican lifestyle. It is a place to find out more information about the region and enjoy the beauty of the Oaxacan coastline through the photo gallery. From time to time, other interesting tidbits about Mexico make their way into the pages of this blog. Enjoy!

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Monday, August 1, 2011

5 Days in Oaxaca - Day Two (Part II)

Oaxaca Diary by Renée Netzel

After finishing the enlightening tour with Benito at Monte Albán, we were handed off to his lovely wife, Suzanne (a fellow Canadian), and we headed towards another famous landmark in the Oaxaca area - The Tule Tree. I have to admit...I wasn't really convinced it would be worth the drive. After all, it was just a tree. However as we drove into the small town of Santa María del Tule, located about 10 kms west of Oaxaca City, we were soon impressed by what we saw.

It may not be the largest, or the oldest, tree in the world but it has no contenders for widest. The Tule Tree dwarfs the town's church (located right beside it) and with a circumference of 54 m (164 ft) it boasts the largest girth of any tree on the planet. Furthermore, the tree is more than 2,000 years old. Imagine... this tree was a sapling at the time when the Zapotec civilization at Monte Albán was flourishing!

But one of the things we enjoyed most about the tree was the local children, in official uniforms, who can be hired for a few pesos as "tour guides" to point out unusual figures one can see in the tree. With pocket mirrors reflecting the sun, these children will point out figures such as the squirrel's tail, anteater, and the wise men. One in particular made us laugh as our guide pointed out the 'butt' of Monica Lewinski...maybe it's time to update the jokes!

The tree itself is actually a cypress known in Spanish as a sabino and is considered Mexico's national tree. The area surrounding the mammoth trees was formerly a marsh filled with cattails, tules in Spanish, from which the town (and confusingly the tree) gets its name. A belief of the local indigenous people is that the tree is the walking stick of one of their gods that took root and grew into the famous tree. And this particular town not only boasts just one, but rather seven extremely large and ancient cypress trees, all over 1,000 years old. Incredible!

From the Tule Tree, we eventually moved on to visit the Sunday market at Tlacochahuaya (tlah-ko-chah-WAH-yah), one of the oldest settlements in the region, founded by Zapotecs around 1100 AD. We learned the town was named after a Zapotec warrior named Cochicahuala, or 'he who fights at night'.

There is actually an open market that you can visit every day of the week, however Sunday is the "official" market day because it's the day when artisans and farmers come from other nearby regions to sell their goods. The market on this day expands immensely and a variety of things can be purchased, from food, to baskets, to textiles, and toys! The region itself is known mostly for growing corn, beans, chilis, garlic, alfalfa, green & red tomatoes, cumin, and many beautiful flowers. As we strolled past market stall after market stall, it was amazing to see the Zapotec descendants gathered there, many dressed in traditional clothing. Suzanne, our guide, explained to us that the Sunday market is as much a social occasion as it is a chance to sell their products. They don't often get a chance to see each other frequently, so they take this opportunity to dress up in their "Sunday best" and catch up on the chisme (local gossip). It was a very special thing to witness.

Upon leaving the market area, Suzanne, took us to the local church & convent that the Dominicans constructed in the late 1500's. Named the Church of San Jeronimo (their patron saint), it was actually erected over a pre-Hispanic temple and features some incredibly ornate, exquisitely painted decorations and carvings, in addition to a rather gruesome but awe-inspiring chapel. This particular chapel is known for depicting various saints and their untimely deaths...such as a statue of the literally beheaded John the Baptist or an up-side-down crucified St. Peter. Interesting to say the least!

Whew...what a day! After heading back to the city and a quick rest, we finished up our second day in Oaxaca with a fabulous meal at Los Danzantes - a hip, laid-back restaurant in the historic centre featuring a fusion menu and relaxed atmosphere...highly recommended.

More to come's the day of the Guelaguetza!  Please visit the gallery for more photos.

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