“New” Ruins of Santa María Atzompa

After my mission out to Abasto, I felt fairly confident that I could make it to Santa María Atzompa on Saturday without getting into too much trouble.  We decided to get an early start to avoid the midday sun so I reluctantly skipped breakfast and went to meet E and N. When I got there I saw that our little group grew to 6 (more the merrier of course) and with me leading the way we headed to towards Abasto.  Because there was 6 of us, I thought it would be more comfortable if we took the bus.  But a bread vendor at the terminal kept telling us how there weren’t any buses to Atzompa and that we needed to take a colectivo.  Since I had seen a bus to Atzompa, I was inclined to wait for one but in the end we decided to just take a car.

The problem was that there were 6 of us plus the driver.  We were more than willing to split up and take 2 colectivos but at the firm insistence of our driver, we did one of those “this would NEVER happen in my country” thing.  E and N sat in the front seat next to the driver, and the rest of us (that’s 4 people- a 6ft+ guy, a tall Dane, a healthy ice hockey playing college student from Canada, and myself) squeezed together in the back.  Seat belts were out of the question but I noticed that there weren’t any anyway. If I had any freedom to move an arm or even a hand, I would have tried to take a photo of this ridiculous/hilarious/semi-dangerous situation, but I was too preoccupied with trying to balance my butt on a tiny bit of real estate available to me.  20 minutes of bumpy road later, we were dropped off in Atzompa.

A colectivo to Atzompa- imagine 7 people riding in this car…


It was not yet 9AM on a clear Saturday morning but it looked like half the town (at least the female half) was outside sweeping the main road.  I wondered if this happened everyday or just on Saturdays…


As I wrote yesterday, I found very little information on Atzompa so I really didn’t know how long of a walk it was going to be to reach the ruins.  But there was a hill in front of us so we followed it up.

IMG_3634And up,


and up past a lady with her goats,


and walked up some more.


We began to rise above the little town and soon the valley of Oaxaca laid below us. I knew we wouldn’t see a lot of people there but I didn’t think we would see no one else along the way. The air was still cool and fresh, and I was thrilled to see the snaking mountain ranges surrounding us.

We finally arrived at the entrance of the ruins of Atzompa, and from the sign in sheet I saw that there was just one other person there (we never saw this guy though).  Woo hoo!

IMG_3640 IMG_3644

There were still some section of the ruins in restoration and we were asked not to take photos there.  It felt a bit odd to be in the ruins but to see how “new” these ruins looked. Later, P, a local woman agreed with me and said that in a few years the ruins of Atzompa will appear more “authentic.” 


What was also interesting about Atzompa is that the ruins here were of the people who lived there, a place of normal everyday life.  It wasn’t filled with religious symbols, carvings of gods or sacred grounds for worship.  


I tried to imagine myself walking between the structures, carrying a basket of vegetable or perhaps a jug of water.  


I squinted southward to the peaks in the distance trying to find Monte Albán.


The vast valley below us looked peaceful and still.  I wondered what it would be like to stand there at night with all the starts shining above.


Maybe it’s the small size of the ruins at Atzompa but I had a sense of comfortable rather than awe.  Unfortunately the museum wasn’t open (E. had found out that it’s run by the community unlike the others that are managed by the state) so we couldn’t visit, but I certainly enjoyed the experience.

We stopped at a tiny restaurant back in town for a late breakfast and much needed shelter from the unrelenting sun.  The 3 younger ones had enough energy to forge ahead to Monte Albán but the 3 of us (the original crew of E, N, and me) were done.  Done, as in “we can’t tolerate any more heat but we could stroll through the mercado de artesanía” kind of done.  So that’s what we did.  After all, Atzompa is famous for their green glazed pottery (which I found out later is the most popular in Oaxaca) and we were at the source.

IMG_3671 IMG_3667

Even though I’m no longer “homeless” and now have a permanent place to live in New York again, it still feels odd for me to shop for real things.  Not that I was ever an enthusiastic shopper… So I had fun browsing at the market but no purchases were made by me.

We were able to find a colectivo heading back to centro right on the main street, and before we knew it we were back in Abasto.  Easy peasy, pan comido as they say. Santa María Atzompa may not be well-known but it was definitely worth checking out, especially since I was headed to a really famous place the next day…

This entry was posted in 2015, Mexico, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “New” Ruins of Santa María Atzompa

  1. Chris, thanks for sharing this new adventure in Oaxaca. Love reading about it. Can’t wait for the next one.

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