Oaxaca and Palenque; History and Culture

The Zapotec citadel of Monte Alban sits hundreds of metres above Oaxaca city, guarding the tops of the hills as it has done since around 0CE.

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View from the top at Monte Alban

Monte Alban is a seriously sprawling site, with dozens of staircases and structures. Most intriguingly there are tombs dotted all over the place: some you can see into, some you can’t.

To get here just head for the centre of town and you are sure to see signs for the tourist bus up.

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The Ball Court at Monte Alban.

We don’t know a lot about the Meso-American ball game, but here at Monte Alban they believe it was not connected with sacrifice, which must have been a relief for the players.

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Oaxaca City and the colourful teacher’s protest which has been going on here for years.

Oaxaca city itself is alive with culture, sounds, and great refrescos. Every time we went round a corner we were confronted with a mother beautiful vista, or opportunity to drink yet more agua de jamaica.

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Market food in Oaxaca. It turns out Mexican Market food is incredible.

This was my best decision of the whole trip. If you are looking for this stand, its at the back of the food market next to the bit where they are grilling all the meat. The mole and chorizo I had changed my live. Chorizo enmolada for those heading that way (mole negro).

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Palenque. I’ve made the artistic decision to exclude Palenque town itself on aesthetic grounds.

Then on to Palenque to check out the tomb of Pacal the Great. The ancient Maya may not have been great at not cutting each others heads off, but they really knew how to construct a tomb.

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Some of the relief art which still exists after 1500 years at Palenque.

You can spot Maya carving anywhere based on their enormous straight noses. To this day depictions in art still follow this style.

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The whole ruin is full of great viewing spots, and is pleasantly cool first thing in the morning.

So exploring is all about cool views, and this was the best we could find at Palenque. High up in the shade on a pyramid build into the hill side we could sit and watch as the site got busier (don’t go on Sundays, its when the locals get in for free and it means REALLY busy sites).

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Death Mask: after Palenque I am 100% sold on getting a death mask, just not for a few more years please.

So yes, Palenque and Oaxaca you rocked my world. History and culture both fresh, living, and vibrant, as well as solid, ancient and strong. If you visit Mexico and don’t make it to either of these places you really missed out.

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