San José El Mogote
Finds uncovered at San José El Mogote have shed considerable light on Valley of Oaxaca prehistory, especially during the thousand-year period preceding the founding of Monte Albán, around 500 B.C. Remains reveal that El Mogote was founded around 1500 B.C. and developed into a sophisticated center, with factory workshops supervised by elite merchants, which manufactured mica mirrors and jewelry for local and regional trade.
Old San José El Mogote lives on, literally, in the backyards of its present Zapotec residents. The people had forgotten what was buried in the seven or eight mogotes (mounds) dotting their village. From the pottery shards littering their fields, however, they suspected something was buried beneath the mounds. Archaeologists came and dug up the treasures now displayed in the community museum, the restored Hacienda del Cacique.
Arrive during the third week in March and join in the fun of the patronal festival of San José, which climaxes on the weekend closest to March 19. Festivities include processions, fireworks, dances of giant figures (called monos or marmotas), and a pelota mixteca tournament. While at the museum, ask the volunteers to show you the hule (natural rubber) ball and the leather mitts currently used to play the game.
You can reach El Mogote in a number of ways. Easiest is to go by tour or taxi from downtown Oaxaca City. You can also go solo by second-class bus from the camionera central segunda clase, just north of Abastos market. Catch the Choferes del Sur bus to Nazareno town. Alternatively, you can catch a colectivo on the prolongation of V. Trujano, which runs along the north side of the second-class bus station.
Drivers, head north along Highway 190 out of Oaxaca City. About 7.5 miles (12 km) from downtown, at the fork to the new cuota autopista, stay on the libre (free) old route. After about two miles (three km), turn left (west) at the San José El Mogote (also Nazareno) side road (marked by the pyramid archaeological symbol sign). Pass over the railroad tracks, continue about half a mile (0.8 km), and at the bus stop shelter, turn left. Continue to the museum just past the water towers on the left.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition