Ruins Like No Other
Mitla is located in the Oaxaca Valley, just a short distance from Oaxaca City. However you get there, it’s worth the visit. It’s not a large site; an hour and a half will be more than enough time to walk around. There are so many things that set Mitla apart from other ruins in Mexico. First off, it’s neither Maya nor Aztec. Its influence comes from the Zapotec and Mixtec cultures. It sits right on the desert floor, so cactus, desert scrub, and aloe plants punctuate the surrounding landscape rather than jungle. There are no pyramids to climb; the highest structure on the site probably has no more than 10 or so steps to get to the top. There are no stone sculptures or carved walls to be seen anywhere. Instead, the decoration on the buildings are beautiful geometric patterns created by inlaid and interlocked pieces of stone (grecas). Amazingly enough, no two walls have the same grecas, and on some of the walls, you can still see the original red-painted stone. Some of the walls and the cupolas of the San Pedro Church (built by the invading Spaniards) have been restored to their red-colored glory. The desert backdrop, the grecas, the pops of red color – it all adds up to a very special place!
By Julee K., AFAR Local Expert
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