Mitla Tourist Attractions
The ruined site of Mitla, situated on the edge of the village of the same name, is one of Mexico's most famous archaeological attractions. Although the site, like its architecture, appears fairly unimposing, the elaborate stone ornamentation is unsurpassed in the art history of Meso-America.
The mountains around what became known as Mitla were already settled around 6000 BC, as can be concluded from cave finds. As the area around Oaxaca saw a constant shift in population, the prehistory of Mitla (Náhuatl: Mictlán = "place of the dead") proves difficult to unravel. Zapotec influences certainly dominated the Classical period, i.e. during the Monte Albán III a and III b (AD 200-800) phases. After AD 900 the influence of the Mixtecs (Náhuatl: "those from the land of the clouds") is evident. These people, who lived mainly in north Oaxaca and who were under attack from the Toltecs from Tollán (Tula) between the 10th and the 12th c., slowly migrated south into the Zapotec kingdom. Through war and marriage the Mixtecs were able, until the arrival of the Spanish, to seize about three-quarters of the approximately 200 important places ruled by the Zapotecs and by other peoples. It is thought that the Mixtecs exercised considerable influence over Mitla between AD 900-1500. However, stylistic elements which are neither Mixtec nor Zapotec date from the important period of the 10th and 11th c. and it remains impossible to know who contributed to the development of these interesting sites. The 14th c. ceramics found at Mitla are almost wholly Mixtec in origin. In 1494 the Aztecs, who were advancing towards Oaxaca, managed to capture the town.
When the Spanish came to Mitla in 1521 the town was inhabited mainly by Zapotecs. By 1576 the Spaniard Diego García de Palacio was already reporting on Mitla. He was followed by Francisco de Burgoa, who recorded his impressions in 1679. Other chroniclers included Alexander von Humboldt, Guillermo Dupaix and Eduard Seler.
The archaeological area includes five important groups of buildings and a large number of houses and tombs around these groups.
How to get there
By bus from Oaxaca about 1 hour; by car from Oaxaca on the MEX 190 eastwards via El Tule, after 38km/24mi turn off left to Mitla, 4km/2.5mi away.