Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Santa María Atzompa’

The dead don’t arrive in the valley of Oaxaca all at once.  The cosmic difunto air traffic controller has scheduled their arrival at different times on different days, from October 31 through November 3, to avoid celestial congestion.

Santa María Atzompa’s departed are among the first to return, arriving on the night of October 31.  Flower and food vendors line the walkway leading to the panteón as grandparents, parents, teens, and small children stream in with arms full of flowers, candles, buckets, and brooms.  Because is built on a slope and there are almost no paths, footing can be treacherous, especially in the dark when only candles on the graves light the way.  At one time, perhaps tombs were positioned on a grid, but no more and it seems to be filled to capacity.  I guess that’s why one side of the panteón has been opened up (one of the walls removed), the field beyond leveled, and a new wall around the field, connected to the old, constructed.  (You can click on images for a larger view.)

On November 1, in the early afternoon, it has become our custom to visit the cemetery in Tlacolula de Matamoros, before bringing pan de muerto and mezcal to the home of friends in Teotitlán del Valle.  In contrast to the higgledy-piggledy of Atzompa, the panteón in Tlacolula emanates a sense of order and serenity.  I wonder, could the tranquility comes from the 500 year old ahuehuete trees (hijos of el Tule, we were told) that reign over the tombs of the departed and make for an amazing play of light and shadow throughout?

On November 2, we returned to Teotitlán, but I will save that for another blog post.  However, that was not the end of the road.  In the category of, no rest for the living, the following day we drove south to San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  This is the village known for their beautiful flowers and exquisite floral embroidery.  And, it is said that because the living are so busy providing flowers to other parts of the valley, the departed wait until November 3 to return. (See the book, Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca by Shawn D. Haley and Curt Fukuda.)  I’m sure, like we, the difuntos are dazzled by the intricacy of floral designs that family members have created to decorate their tombs in welcome.

Octavio Paz writes in The Labyrinth of Solitude, “Life extended into death, and vice-versa.  Death was not the natural end of life but one phase of an infinite cycle.”

Read Full Post »

Celebrations in Oaxaca surrounding Día de Muertos are beginning.  This past week, we, members of the Mexico Travel Photography Facebook group, were issued a 5-day “Day of the Dead” photo challenge by moderator, Norma Schafer.  There are always so many favorite images from so many events that I never get around to posting, so this was my opportunity.  My five…

img_0085

Panteón, Santa María Atzompa, Oaxaca on Oct. 31, 2015

img_0125

Offering on tomb in Panteón Municipal de Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca on Nov. 1, 2015

p1030655

Muerteada, morning after the night before, Nov. 2, 2014, San Agustín Etla, Oaxaca

img_6545

Sun sets on Santa María Atzompa panteón, Oct. 31, 2014

p1030223_bw

On the Alcalá in Oaxaca City, Oct. 31, 2014

And, five more, just because…

img_0079

Santa María Atzompa, Oct. 31, 2015

p1030402

San Pablo Villa de Mitla, ofrenda with pan de muertos, Nov. 1, 2014

p1030148

Chocolate calaveras at Villa de Etla, Oct. 31, 2014

p1030157

Cempasuchil (marigold) vendor at Villa de Etla, Oct. 31, 2014

p1150252

Casa de las Artesanías de Oaxaca, Oct. 31, 2015

That’s all folks, for now.  Stay tuned for more to come from this year.

Read Full Post »

The souls  have departed.   And, following 33 hours of travel, my BFF (along with her alebrijes by Alberto Perez and the Xuana family, a traditional black and white rebozo, bottle of Del Maguey mezcal from Chichicapa, several bags of Conchita chocolate, and a fabulous mohair rug woven by Antonio Ruíz Gonzalez), has returned home to the frigid climes of Alaska.  However, gal pal, souls, and the mortals with whom we shared the past, have left warm and lasting memories.  They have also left an exhausted gringa, whose brain feels like one of those overloaded small trucks one (more than occasionally) sees on the roads here.  With every nook and cranny filled, they move at a snail’s pace, be it along a pot-holed dirt road or the carretera, balancing their top-heavy loads.

Our week began on October 29, when the sounds of a band Pied Piper-ed us down the street and around a corner to a comparsa of high school students, who were taking part in a competition of using recycled products for their costumes and floats.  Alas, the rains came and eventually chased us home.

On October 30, delectable dining (lunch at La Biznaga and dinner at Los Danzantes) nourished multiple museum visits and allowed us to join the standing-room-only crowd at the Oaxaca Lending Library (without rumbling stomachs) to watch the wonderful new documentary, La Festividad de los Muertos, chronicling Day of the Dead in Teotitlán del Valle.

Then there was Thursday, the 31st….  A shopping expedition for flowers, sugar skulls, bread (pan de muertos), and two 10-foot long stalks of sugar cane to form the arch over my altar.  I carried them the 10-blocks home on my shoulder (sheesh, they are heavy) and carefully navigating the busy sidewalks.  According to BFF, I provided pedestrians and passengers in buses,cars, and taxis much entertainment.  I didn’t see a thing — I was just trying not to trip, fall, or whack anyone in front, behind, or to the sides of me!

Once the candles, photos, bread, chocolate, beverages (cervesa, mezcal, and water), and meaningful objects to our departed were in place; flowers arranged and cempasuchitl (marigold) petals scattered; and the arching sugar cane affixed to the wall surrounding our ofrenda, we made our way down to the beginning of the CEDART comparsa.

Later in the evening, we drove up to the panteón in Santa María Atzompa.  Passing the bright lights and crush of food, flower, pottery, and other vendors that line the entrance and finally emerging from under the arched gateway, the candlelit ethereal beauty of the cemetery on this night never ceases to take my breath away.  Of course, it wasn’t all exquisite and unearthly enchantment.  This is Mexico and so there was also a (very loud) band and the cervesa and mezcal flowed freely.  I’m sure the difuntos (deceased) enjoyed themselves and partied hardy with the living until the sun rose.  And then all slept.

On the other hand, we left at a reasonable hour, as we were only at the mid-point of our Día de los Muertos marathon.  More to come…

Read Full Post »

It’s been a magnificent Muertos filled with memorable moments and special people, along with a feast for ALL the senses.  An initial pass through the photos has weeded them down to 450.  Yikes!  Lots more weeding and processing to do.  In the meantime, here is a snapshot from the past 5 days.

And the magic continues today, when we return to San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

Read Full Post »

Almost a year after our first visit to the newly opened Atzompa archaeological site, yesterday, we returned.  The beautiful paved road up from Santa María Atzompa (elevation 1,580 meters) now brings one to a parking lot right across from the entrance, making for less of a haul up the hill for those less mobile or challenged by the altitude — at the top it is almost 300 meters above the village below — even we were huffing and puffing.

IMG_5525

Atzompa was part of Monte Alban and one of its largest settlements.  At the top of the stairs (above), is the largest (45 meters by 22 meters) of the 6 ball courts found among the Monte Alban communities.

Ball court

Investigations of the Atzompa site first began in 1940 by Jorge R. Acosta, who was part of the Monte Alban Project.  However, in 2007 the National Institute of Anthropology and History began formal explorations using a team of architects, archeologists, topographers, and restorers.

IMG_5555

Though the path is currently difficult to see, make sure to go around to the left of the building above to see the north quadrant.  Informational placards in Spanish and English are now in place throughout the site and most of the facts in this post are taken from them, but, of course, I neglected to take a photo of the placard for the building below!

IMG_5557

Residents from the land cooperatives in the surrounding communities have been hired to do much of the field and lab work.  Not a bad setting to work…

IMG_5556

One can, in the words of The Who, “see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles…”

Green valley with mountain range in distanceExcept for the birds, insects, lizards, and workers, we had this spectacular setting to ourselves — I think we only saw 3 other visitors the entire time we were there.  Perhaps when the second entrance on the Monte Alban side opens, it will attract more attention.  In the meantime, the peace and tranquility are a gift in these chaotic times.

Oaxaca–The Year After has more from yesterday’s visit.

Read Full Post »

One of the biggest challenges of the recent move was carrying 150+ potted plants down two flights of stairs, across the driveway, and up a flight of stairs.  They ranged in size from eight to eighteen inches across and ten to twenty-four inches tall.  Needless to say, major respect was given to the cactus and their perilous spikes.  However, I also gave special care to my two pots by the late potter, Dolores Porras.

P1040391

Growing up and spending her life in one of the villages of Oaxaca known for working in clay, Santa María Atzompa, her style was unique in the use of color and imagery — a touch of whimsy wherever her pots are found.

P1040390

If you will be in Oaxaca tomorrow (Feb. 11, 2013), be sure to stop by the Oaxaca Lending Library to see Michael Peed discuss and show his documentary, Dolores Porras: Artista Artesana de Barro.  And, if you’re not lucky enough to be there, check out the website for the film’s trailer.

Porras blurb

 

Read Full Post »

With only a couple of days left in November and the Christmas holiday season already making its presence known, it’s now or never to finish sorting through this year’s Día de los Muertos photos — my thoughts and impressions will take the remains of this lifetime, and then some, to process.

To an outsider, especially one whose worldview was shaped by a Judeo-Christian culture, Day of the Dead is often seen through the lens of juxtaposition.

The “unbearable lightness of being” in Santiago Apóstol…

Whitewashed graves covered with multicolored fresh flowers

Whitewashed graves covered with multicolored fresh flowers

Whitewashed graves covered with multicolored fresh flowers

Whitewashed graves covered with multicolored fresh flowers

The blurred otherworldly darkness of Santa María Atzompa…

Night shot of tall lighted candles perched around and on graves.

Night shot of tall lighted candles perched around and on graves.

Night shot of tall lighted candles perched around and on graves.

Night shot of two lighted votive candles casting halos on the ground

However, light becomes dark becomes light becomes dark, as day becomes night becomes day becomes night, as life becomes death becomes life becomes death…  dualism beginning to vanish.

Read Full Post »

At long last, and with not much fanfare, the Atzompa archeological site is open to the public!

Panoramic view of Atzompa archaeological site.

The winding road, cut into the side of the mountain, has been visible for a while and we could see platforms when we were up at Monte Alban (about 5 miles away) two weeks ago.

Winding road on side of mountain.

It’s a bit of a hike up a newly paved road from the small (temporary?) parking area under the pine trees, but we eventually reached the site and the ball court.

Ball court with mountains in background

It is small, but the setting is spectacular.

Ruins in foreground with mountains in back.

One can see a recreation of the 1,000+ year old Zapotec kiln that was uncovered 8 feet down — offering proof of continuity to today’s renown potters of Santa María Atzompa.

Kiln with shade covering.

Then there is the vegetation….  The architecture of native trees adds to aura of this ancient site.

Tree in front of side of pyramid

And, the white flowers of one of the trees has attracted the tiniest hummingbirds I’ve ever seen.

Hummingbird sitting on branch

Nopal cactus, in full fruit (tunas) at this time of year, dot the landscape.

Nopal cactus loaded with red fruit "tunas"

Archaeologists and their crews continue their work excavating and restoring, and much is blocked from amateur exploration, including the 1,100-year-old burial chamber.  Darn!

Workers restoring a building

The only “facilities” available at the site, thus far, are bathrooms (which were a trip, but I won’t go into it).  Lest you worry about comida for the workers, it arrived by motorcycle and was waiting in insulated boxes in the parking area.

6 motorcycles with soft insulated boxes.

Aside from those working at the site, we had the place to ourselves… no tour groups and no vendors.  We were left alone to listen to the birds and insects and imagine a highly developed culture, alive with the ancestors of the energetic, creative, and spiritual people we are privileged to live among.

Read Full Post »

 

Buried treasures continue to be found in Oaxaca.  Mexico’s INAH (National Anthropology and History Institute) reported this week another burial chamber has been uncovered at the nearby Santa María Atzompa archaeological zone.

Current findings in the tomb include this urn, which they date to sometime between 650 CE and 850 CE.

Red urn shaped like a human face.

Photo: Red anthropomorphic urn (EFE/INAH)

Here is an English language article that reports on these latest discoveries from the site.

Mexican Archaeologists Discover Ancient Zapotec Tomb

Published at 10:06 pm EST, August 16, 2012

The tomb of a high-ranking member of Zapotec society was found at a 1,200-year-old funerary complex in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, said.

Archaeologist in Zapotec tomb

Photo: Burial and offering (INAH)

The funerary complex, which has three burial chambers, was found about three months ago at the Atzompa archaeological zone, the INAH said.

Archaeologists managed to get into the third pre-Columbian burial chamber, which contained human remains that are likely those of a male, INAH archaeology coordinator Nelly Robles Garcia said.

The remains will be analyzed to determine the age, nutrition and health of the individual, as well as whether there are intentional deformities of a cultural nature.

Archaeologists found a fractured skull belonging to another individual next to the remains, leading them to conclude that it may have been an offering.

A small, black tubular pitcher and pieces of a vessel were also found in the burial chamber.

A red urn with a human face on it and other items were found in the grave, archaeologist Eduardo Garcia said.

The vessel, which is estimated to date back to 650 A.D. to 850 A.D., is 50 centimeters (1.6 feet) tall, archaeologists said.

“We are dealing with a building where the remains of people with a very high status were placed. Who they were and what role they played in Zapotec society is still to be determined based on the findings that are being made and their later analysis,” Robles said.

Archaeologists found the building, which was designed exclusively as a burial site, in late April.

The tombs are located one on top of the other and, unlike previous discoveries, are not underground.

One of the burial chambers is decorated with a mural of a ball game, a theme not found before in Zapotec funerary practices.

Atzompa was a small satellite city of Monte Alban, the main center of the Zapotec state that dominated what today is Oaxaca.

“This discovery changes the perception we had in the sense that it was not as similar to Monte Alban as had been thought but, instead, developed its own architectural expressions, such as in the case of tombs and palaces,” Robles said.

For more on the Santa María Atzompa archaelogical zone, take a look at a January 2012 article I reprinted on an Ancient Zapotec kiln discovered there.  The site is scheduled to open sometime this year.

Read Full Post »

News of this discovery was posted on Facebook this morning by Sam, my young Zapotec friend from Teotitlán del Valle, who is currently getting his Ph.D. in Sustainable Manufacturing at the University of Liverpool.  A global village, it is!

By the way, Santa María Atzompa (mentioned below) is where I experienced a Magical and Mystical October 31st.  The article and photo are from today’s, Hispanically Speaking News.

1,300 Year Old Kiln Used by Ancient Zapotecs Discovered in Mexico

Mexican archaeologists have discovered in the southern part of the country a kiln used by the ancient Zapotecs to make ceramics more than 1,300 years ago, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, said.

Clay pot in ancient kiln

The pre-Columbian kiln was discovered in the Atzompa Archaeological Zone in Oaxaca state, which will be opened to the public this year, INAH said in a communique.

It added that this is one of the best preserved ceramic kilns ever found in the Zapotec area, and noted Oaxaca’s long tradition in making pottery.

According to Wednesday’s communique, the kiln “is a link between the pre-Columbian pottery tradition and the artisanal ceramics currently made in the community of Santa Maria Atzompa, establishing the connection between today’s inhabitants and their ancestors.”

Archaeologist Jaime Vera, head of the excavation, said the kiln “is thought to date back to the first years of the pre-Columbian settlement of the area, in other words, more than 1,300 years ago, which is deduced from the ceramics found with it.”

Another element that allows the kiln to be dated is the depth at which it was found – 2.2 meters (7 feet 2 1/2 inches) – “far below the layer of stucco that covered it, and which corresponds to that era, the archaeologist said, adding that further studies will be made to confirm its antiquity.

It was in the excavation period between March and December 2011 that the kiln was completely uncovered allowing its principal characteristics to be observed: a cylindrical adobe wall and shelves for placing the objects to be fired.

The kiln consists of a cylindrical adobe wall measuring 2.1 meters (6 feet 11 inches) from the surface to the firing shelves arranged in convergent lines toward the center, and a downdraft vent in the lower part approximately 20 centimeters (8 inches) wide,” Vera said.

He said that “while today’s kilns are not identical in dimensions or shelf arrangement, they do perserve certain basic elements and the function as a space for firing ceramics.”

The Atzompa Archaeological Zone, approximately 4 square kilometers (1 1/2 square miles), existed as a small satellite village of the Zapotec city of Monte Alban during the Late Classic period (650 B.C.to 900 B.C.) when the latter’s growing population expanded beyond its boundaries.

The work to provide the Atzompa Archaeological Zone with the necessary infrastructure will continue, since it is one of the pre-Columbian sites that will be opened to the public this year, INAH said.

Read Full Post »

I don’t have words to express “being” last night in the Panteón of Santa María Atzompa…

Marigolds and tall candles grave

Elderly man and woman in cemetary with candles

Tall candles and flowers in cemetary

Mother holding child, illuminated by candles

Elderly woman bending over grave with tall candles and marigolds

Feeling so incredibly privileged.

Read Full Post »

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: