Take a walk around Ejutla’s shady plaza to get your bearings. The portico-fronted presidencia municipal stands on the plaza’s south side, the market is on the north, and the big, proud Templo de la Natividad towers above the southeast corner. Sometime around 1750, the present church replaced the 16th- century original (which itself replaced a big pre-conquest Zapotec pyramid). Over the years, earthquakes took their toll; it was extensively restored around 1900.
Several large hieroglyph-decorated stone blocks built into the church’s walls attest to the fact that the entire town remains an unexplored archaeological zone. You can find more evidence of this about two blocks north and two blocks east of the church, near the corner of Calles Altimirano and 16 de Septiembre. A big house compound encloses what appears to be a small hill, which is actually a buried temple-topped pyramid. Look for the several hieroglyph-decorated pre-conquest monoliths that have been incorporated into modern walls.
Since the church is usually open, you might as well step into the cool interior and contemplate the town’s patron, the Virgin of the Nativity, presiding above the altar in what at first glance appears to be a bridal gown. In the lovely transept chapel on the right of the nave, you’ll see another image of the same patron. Local people celebrate both, with a big fiesta centering around December 8.
For something else interesting, step over to the presidencia and look on the wall for Ejutla’s official escudo (coat of arms), which incorporates no arms at all. It’s a portrait in tile of a bean vine, encircling a view of the sun rising from behind a likeness of Cerro El Labrador, the town’s sacred mountain, towering in the east. A poem in praise of the “SUN, which rises here earlier than other lands . . . the source of life . . . without which there would be nothing” is included at the base of the escudo.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition