Before heading uphill to investigate the important Cerro de la Campana archaeological zone, look around the nearby Suchilquitongo town plaza. Suchilquitongo (Place of Flowers in the Mixtec language; pop. 5,000) is the seat of the surrounding Suchilquitongo municipio, a rich domain of hills and mountains enclosing the emerald vale of the upper Río Atoyac.
Using irrigation, bottomland farmers routinely bring in three crops per year, achieving some of Mexico’s highest yields per acre in corn, beans, alfalfa, and squash. If only the rest of Oaxaca were so productive. Although virtually all of the bottomland is privately owned, much of the surrounding hills and mountains is undeveloped town communal pastureland.
Be sure to visit Suchilquitongo’s community museum. It is one of the best of the network of community museums sprinkled around the state. Before you leave, you might want to also visit one of the town’s basket weavers at work. For a small fee, maybe the equivalent of a couple of dollars, the person at the museum desk may be able to guide you (or find someone who can) to one of their workshops.
Suchilquitongo’s other significant craft is stonemasonry. Local quarries mine three types—morada (pink), blanco (meaning white, but actually a pale green), and amarillo (pale yellow)—of the soft cantera (volcanic tufa) for which Oaxaca is famous. As you exit at the highway, go left a few hundred yards, and on the right you’ll see the covered workshop of master stonemason Cenobio Ausencio Pinelo Martínez (tel. 952/528-4569), who’s teaching his sons his disappearing craft.
Get to Suchilquitongo by bus via one of the Cooperativo de Autobuses Suchilquitongo buses, which leave from the camionera central segunda clase just north of the Abastos market in Oaxaca City, west of the periférico. Alternatively, you can go by a Suchilquitongo-bound colectivo on the prolongation of V. Trujano, which runs along the bus station’s north side.
Drivers, head out of Oaxaca City along Highway 190 in the direction of Mexico City, northwest. Bear right onto libre (toll-free) Highway 190 where the cuota autopista (toll expressway) splits off to the left, about 7.5 miles (12 km) from the city center.
Continue another several miles along libre Highway 190, pass an industrial park entrance on the left and, within a few minutes, turn left 17 miles (27 km) from the city center at the big Suchilquitongo entrance arch on the left. Pass over the railroad tracks and continue straight ahead to the Community Museum, another half mile (0.8 km) to the town plaza. Climb the plaza stairway on the right to the museum.
(For the Cerro de la Campana archaeological zone, return to the railroad tracks, where Calle Victoria forks left, uphill north, passing a church, continuing a total of about 1.5 miles, or 2.5 km, to the hilltop archaeological zone.)
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition