Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Teposcolula & Yanhuitlan

Pedalling higher and higher towards Oaxaca City we come to the town of Teposcolula which houses a startling open chapel built to preach Catholocism to the local Mixtec population. The the size and design of the atrium that is fenced in the front of the church testifies to the sizeable concentration of stone working talents that that this region once had. Extensive excavations are ongoing around town. Several significant burial sites have been unearthed along with the foundations of the sophisticated Pre-Colombian settlement that must have drawn the original attentions of the Spanish. The museum is well worth a peek.

And then there is the terrifyingly massive Dominican fortress that is Yanhuitlan and I say that because - wow! there is little else here. As you approach through highly eroded terrain, the massive church that looms over the empty village of Yanhuitlan, leaves you feeling like something has gone terribly wrong in this place. In the early 1500's the area around Yanhuitlan was one of the heaviest concentrations of Mixtec Alta people and highly populated Yanhuitlan was the governing kingdom. Cantera quarries were in full swing and the talents of Mixtec stone masons translated easily into the building of one of the most daunting Mexican churches I have ever seen. It is an eerie feeling to stand in the atrium of a church built on such an important ancient ceremonial centre and feel such unsatisfied anticipation.

A local man once told me that the church never hosted its expected numbers of converts here as, along with the arrival of the Spanish, more than half the population was killed off by disease. My little old man source tells me that the population demise ocurred bfore they were even done building the church.

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