We can’t get enough of this city and this morning we wander down to explore the blocks and blocks of market halls near the Zocolo. Each market hall specializes in something. There is the hall full of tourist trinkets, the clothing hall, the farmers market hall, the butchers hall.
There is even a street selling nothing but ladies underwear in every style I can imagine, plus a few styles I haven’t imagined, for which I am forever grateful. Then there is the Mexican fast food hall, full of stalls each one barbecuing thinly cut meat. The hall is enclosed and the barbecue smoke just sits in the building. The smoke is so thick it is hard to see more than a few yards, and breathing is very unpleasant, and yet it is packed with customers and vendors who spend their entire day in there. Our eyes begin to water within moments and we can’t wait to get out.
So get out we do, and in fact drive out of the city to see the World heritage Site of Monte Alban. This is not a character out of La Cage Aux Folles but a city built by the Zapotec people way before the Mayans built Chichen Itza.
Monte Alban was inhabited from 500 BC up to 850 AD. It sits on the top of the highest mountain, looking down on the valleys below and the smaller surrounding mountains. The Indians even modified the mountain tops and hillsides. Elevated areas were cut and leveled in order to construct the most important buildings, and the hillsides were terraced for the less important homes and for crop growing. The architects incorporated the shapes and forms of surrounding hills into their buildings showing a true understanding of aesthetics.
Monte Alban is the largest pre Hispanic city found in the region and represents the first urban plan on the American continent. It is also one of the few sites in the world where the rise of the state system of government can be clearly seen, with the economy based on tributes paid by the surrounding communities.
Because of its situation on top of the mountain, it has superb 360 degree views and is a stunning site. There is a huge central Plaza with a series of monumental architectural complexes surrounding it. Further proof of this advanced society is seen in the two observatory buildings and the fact that surrounding buildings were positioned astronomically.
It is nowhere near as well known as Chichen Itza and doesn’t have that “wow factor” but it certainly seems to me to be every bit as impressive.