Tourist for a day

Published on 17 January 2023 at 21:26

I took a tour which visited the ancient ruins of Monte Alban, a potter which works with traditional black clay, wood carvers and a traditional textile weaver. It was a very fascinating tour and day! [text stolen from internet]


Monte Albán –

[Monte Alban is the most important archaeological site of the Valley of Oaxaca. Inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of peoples – Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs – the terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain and are the symbols of a sacred topography. The grand Zapotec capital flourished for thirteen centuries, from the year 500 B.C to 850 A.D. when, for reasons that have not been established, its eventual abandonment began. The archaeological site is known for its unique dimensions which exhibit the basic chronology and artistic style of the region and for the remains of magnificent temples, ball court, tombs and bas-reliefs with hieroglyphic inscriptions. The main part of the ceremonial centre which forms a 300 m esplanade running north-south with a platform at either end was constructed during the Monte Albán II (c. 300 BC-AD 100) and the Monte Albán III phases. Phase II corresponds to the urbanization of the site and the domination of the environment by the construction of terraces on the sides of the hills, and the development of a system of dams and conduits. The final phases of Monte Albán IV and V were marked by the transformation of the sacred city into a fortified town. Monte Albán represents a civilization of knowledge, traditions and artistic expressions. Excellent planning is evidenced in the position of the line buildings erected north to south, harmonized with both empty spaces and volumes. It showcases the remarkable architectural design of the site in both Mesoamerica and worldwide urbanism.]

The inside of one of the tombs

black clay -

[Barro negro pottery ("black clay") is a style of pottery from Oaxaca, Mexico, distinguished by its color, sheen and unique designs. Oaxaca is one of few Mexican states which is characterized by the continuance of its ancestral crafts, which are still used in everyday life. Barro negro is one of several pottery traditions in the state, which also include the glazed green pieces of Santa María Atzompa; however, barro negro is one of the best known and most identified with the state. It is also one of the most popular and appreciated styles of pottery in Mexico. The origins of this pottery style extends as far back as the Monte Albán period and for almost all of this pottery's history, had been available only in a grayish matte finish. In the 1950s, a potter named Doña Rosa devised a way to put a black metallic like sheen onto the pottery by polishing it before firing.This look has made the pottery far more popular.]


This clay is unique in the fact it does not contain any sand. Thus it is difficult to work with, it doesn't hold it's shape well and the process to make a single piece can take up to 30 days, allowing for the piece to dry between stages. This artist fires his work in a "traditional" underground kiln. He loads the pieces, builds a wood fire then closes off all openings so the heat stays in and the fire goes out trapping the smoke inside. Also the firing times are different for the polished vs. the natural pieces.

Wooden alebrijes –

The town of San Martin Tilcajete, MX is known for its wood carving and the facility we visited was a family shop. The youth we saw work under the supervision of a master craftsman. It takes 7 years to earn the rank of master. This is all just freehand!


The process to make a single piece can take many days. First the wood is striped and carved. Then the piece is soaked in gasoline for a few days to draw out the oil in the wood. Next the piece is placed in the sun to evaporate the gasoline which causes the wood to crack and split. The cracks are then filled and sanded smooth. Next a base coat of paint is applied then it is ready for the decorative paint.

Traditional weaving -

This woman is the 4th generation weaver and she is now teaching her daughter to weave. There are over 100 different patterns that she weaves and none are written down and recorded, it is all from memory!