Nice sunrise near Organyà, Spain.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Montblanc, Spain.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Heading south west in Spain towards Gibraltar.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Monte Alban Ruins and Oaxaca Protests

Yesterday we took the little blue car for a drive. The Monte Alban ruins are only about 10 kms (6 miles) from the center of Oaxaca City, but they're not that easy to get to using alternate transportation. There are city buses that go in the direction of the ruins, but it still leaves you with an hour walk to get there, or you can pay 100 pesos ($8.30) each for a shuttle bus ride, or you can pay even more to go with one of the many tour companies catering to the tourists. It was easier and cheaper to take the little blue car!

I planned out a route using google maps (I love the internet for mapping!) and we had no problem getting there despite the somewhat hairy Oaxaca traffic. Since we had the car out anyhow, we also planned on going to the unfinished Cuilapan Monastery and Church that  began construction in 1555 and was never finished, about 10 kms south of Monte Alban.

We had no problem getting to the ruins. Parking was free.

Kevin, at the top of the entrance steps to the ruins site.

We found the little ticket booth and paid our 57 pesos ($4.73) each for admission. There's a small museum on site, so decided to take that in first. They had a few of the artifacts that were found on site. All descriptions and signs in the museum are in Spanish only.

I liked this little statue. Almost looks like a real face peering out of the mask!

Many of the original stone carvings are kept in the museum, with copies in their original spots on the grounds.

You're in and out of the museum in 15 minutes. It's pretty small, which is just fine with us. You can only look at so many broken pieces of pottery before they all start to look the same!

Some of the structures are pretty big. Notice Ruth sitting on the steps near the right.

We were lucky that there were not many people around! A couple of tour buses, but they left well before we were finished.

One problem...this was one of the most restrictive ruins sites that we have ever visited in Mexico. Many of the structures had interesting things at the top, but you weren't allowed to go up and see them.

This building had a lot of rooms and cavities and tunnels...all closed and locked up. I don't like not being able to explore! Are those rocks on the ground really left over pieces from the reconstruction? Hmmm.

Another opening, but again not accessible. I want to go in and explore! Notice the interesting carving at the lower left of the opening.

Some of the ruins are unrestored. Apparently this was a residential area, where they found the bones of eight individuals.

What's this? One of us is apparently on the wrong side of this piece of tape! Ruth, breaking the rules? That's something I would normally do. There's nobody around, so let's see where this goes...

It actually went down to an unused bathroom building! But beyond that there was a trail, so we took it and it brought us to another ruins section that you wouldn't otherwise be able to get to. Why was the trail closed? No idea.

More unrestored ruins, and one gated off section that housed a couple of unimpressive rock carvings.

And, an unlocked door!

There are several of these tombs on the site, but all of the tombs are locked. This one was open! I crawled down to have a look, but it was just a small empty crawlspace. Can't figure why they keep them locked unless there are maybe artifacts or whatever in the locked ones. No idea.

Pretty much had the place to ourselves!

I like that nice green shade tree. It sure seems out of place up there.

Overall, I was left unimpressed by Monte Alban when compared to other ruins we've visited. But we've been to a lot of ruins sites in Mexico over the years and our favorite is still the ruins at Palenque. However, if you've not been to many, or never been to any, then Monte Alban is worth a visit. We still managed to spend three hours wandering around, so it's worth the 57 pesos entry fee just for something to do.

From there we drove back down the hill and towards the town of Cuilapan. About half way there, traffic slowed down and we saw some cars and buses attempting to turn around. It was a bit of a zoo! There were a LOT of taxis all the same color and they were blocking the road!

Never found out why, but the taxi drivers were protesting something and had closed the road. Remember our road block from a couple of days ago? It turns out that disruptive protests are a common occurrence here in the state of Oaxaca, and even more so here in the city.

We had passed a Bodega Aurrera store (owned by Walmart) and so when we finally got turned around we figured we would stop in for some supplies that aren't as easy to get in the central area. No go...the store was closed due to some kind of a teachers protest. So we went to a Soriana grocery was closed too with signs and people milling about!

We spoke to our apartment host Susana and she said that there is always someone going on strike or protesting in Oaxaca City. Some of you might remember the teachers strikes and demonstrations here that resulted in quite a few deaths back in 2006. Apparently the teachers had been going on strike EVERY year for over twenty years prior to that. Susana said that the teachers now only work four hours per day...8am until noon! (Note, I haven't been able to verify this info...just going by what Susana said, but she's lived here her whole life.) 

And so the protesters cancelled our trip to the unfinished convent.

We found out that there's some sort of dance festival going on in Oaxaca this week, and there's a different free show every evening at 7:00pm, so we walked down to have a look.

Along the way to the dance festival.

This one couple did the whole show.

They went through several costume changes. Sometimes while onstage. It was kind of strange.

Overall, the 45 minute show was a little weird. Some of the dance was good, but we have a hard time getting the artsy part of it! Maybe we'll go back to a different show this evening. It was weird, but it was free. Something to do in the evenings.


  1. You guys find the most interesting things!

    Karen and Steve
    The USA Is Our Big Backyard

  2. Perhaps the ruins are in need of major repairs and that is why they were restricting access. What a pain with all the protests and closures.

    1. No, we think the reason is that at certain times of the year/month/week/ there are just so many people (some might be stupid people, who do stupid stuff!) that they are trying to protect the ruins the best they can.

      Yep, the protests and closures are a pain and we saw more of that today but that seems to be the way things go here so we just go with the flow.

  3. Well, it's not always "perfect". I'm reasonably sure the inconvenience of being side tracked by protesters or strikers is well made up for by the great weather. You can just choose to do very little.
    Perhaps the gated areas are there to keep people from going in and doing unspeakable things. We won't speak of it.

    1. It was actually pretty hot by the time we hit the blockade so we were happy to just go back to the apartment and relax for the rest of the afternoon.

      I think you could be correct there Bob, some people just don't respect stuff and they have now cost all of us the access to some of the more interesting places at the ruins. Or there was just too many people and they wanted to protect the sites better, who knows!

  4. That's frustrating to have the ruins so restricted. But if their people are as careless and inconsiderate as ours, perhaps they fear the damage if people are allowed to run free. Those protests must be getting mighty tiring for you let alone for the people who live there all the time. How do their kids get an education if all the teachers are always on strike???

    1. That is more or less what we are thinking too, Sherry. The problem is that it isn't just "their" people but could very well be "our" people as well.

      We're not sure how they put up with all these closures and protests, there were more today! Oaxaca state is one of the lowest ranked states in Mexico for education and I am sure the strikes/protests aren't helping.

  5. I don't like it either when I can't explore! Hopefully your day tomorrow will be more successful! No exploring, no convent, and no mexican Wall Mart, all in the same day!

    1. It was still a great day though, there was no snow and the sun was shinning and the temperature was wonderful!

    2. That's great! Glad to hear you enjoyed yourselves anyways!

  6. At least you didn't have to run a gauntlet of vendors like the pyramids outside of Mexico City. And yes I climbed to the top of one. Too bad I can never remember how to spell the name, let alone pronounce it... ;c)

    Teirtnowme, Tirenwxso, tImoeTafe...the heck with it, you know what I mean! :cD

    1. There were a few vendors inside but not many, just a little annoying. There were definitely more at Teotihuacán but still nothing like Chichen Itza. The ruins at Chichen Itza are beautiful but the vendors and the hordes of tourists ruined the experience for me.

      We also climbed the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán last year at just about this same time year.

  7. The school situation in Mexico can be a little confusing. Students go to school either in the morning or the afternoon. I thought morning shift was 7 - 12 but Susana may be correct that it is 8 - 12, Afternoon shift is the same number of hours in the afternoon. Teachers to have the option of choosing to teach the morning or afternoon shift, but get this, they can choose to teach BOTH shifts. It makes for a long day after they add the preparation time before each shift but they get double the pay and double the pension! I learned this from our friends Chris and Juan.

    Some tourists go home with the idea that Mexican kids do not have to go to school because there are always kids on the street. The morning/afternoon shift system explains this.

    So Susana is partly right. Teachers can turn their profession into a part time job by working only mornings (or afternoons) but they have the option to work much longer hours for much more money and future pension benefits.

    1. You are correct on the the fact that there are two shifts of school per day and we are aware of that, however Oaxaca state has one of the lowest education rates in Mexico. Part of that is due to it being one of the poorer states and many children don't continue on with their education past primary school. The fact still remains that with the many school disruptions and days the schools are closed due to the strikes/protests the children are not getting the education that they should be getting. Many of the people in Oaxaca City are very tired of the protests and blockades that have been going on for years.

  8. Not sure exactly, but because of teachers striking over the years, Oaxacan children have missed years of education. The culture in Oaxaca is very conflictive.

    What no GPS? I will send you my Tom-Tom for free including cable and software. It's a piece of mugre. I like Google and Mapquest best.

    1. You are certainly right on the children missing years of education. It is funny that is seems to be mostly Oaxaca City that has these protests!

      Our GPS (Tom-Tom) isn't very descriptive with Oaxaca City so it was better to use Google Maps for our journery to Monte Alban. We don't rely totally on the GPS. Kevin is pretty thorough with his research when we are traveling the local roads, we don't want any surprises especially if we are traveling with Sherman.


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