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Christmas in Oaxaca + Monte Alban & Hierve el Agua

Updated: May 26, 2023

In 2021, we chose the city of Oaxaca to spend Christmas and see how Mexicans celebrate it. You will discover the Jalatlaco district and the legend of the Piñata. Plus, you'll have the chance to visit Monte Alban and Hierve el Agua, two popular destinations near Oaxaca.

See the video on Youtube:

We had heard very good comments about this city with its many colonial buildings, and of course, about the quality of its mezcal and its food, but also about its surrounding activities.

Jalatlaco neighborhood

At the start of our free city tour, our guide proudly announces that the region is known for its many autonomous indigenous groups, including the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs, of which he himself is a member.

Our favorite part of the city was undoubtedly the Jalatlaco district, an area inhabited mainly by locals. We were immediately charmed by its magnificent murals, either telling ancient Mesoamerican legends, or simply to decorate the streets.

Décorations de Noël dans le quartier Jalatlaco
Christmas decorations in the Jalatlaco district

Christmas in Mexico

It is in this neighborhood that we instinctively decided to spend our Christmas Eve. We immediately felt accepted by the locals who were extremely kind, open and generous with us, despite the fact that it was more of a small private neighborhood party. The frenzy of the marching band and puppets immediately impressed us, and we danced a bit with the families before returning to our hostel which had prepared free activities for travelers spending Christmas abroad.

Watch the video to understand (Youtube of FODN):


Also during this visit, we learn the history of the Piñata, this well-known game. Arriving in Latin America, the evangelists used it to spread their message. The Piñata then represented the devil that had to be destroyed, with its 7 peaks, which represent the 7 deadly sins. Blindfolded, the chosen one is turned on himself 33 times (for the age of Christ's death). This person must have blind faith to act against the forces of evil. The falling candies represent the gifts and miracles that god will give after eliminating the evil! Of course, no one thinks about that anymore when trying to break the Piñata!

Décorations de Noël à Oaxaca, une Piñata
Christmas decorations in Oaxaca, a Piñata

Monte Alban

Another place that you must visit during your stay in Oaxaca is called Monte Alban. We had decided to walk there from the city center, which may seem a bit exaggerated because it is a walk of at least 3 hours (8km), but it allowed us to see panoramas that most tourists do not see during their stay and Oaxaca is a little less touristy.

Randonnée vers Monte Alban, Oaxaca
Hike to Monte Alban, Oaxaca

Panorama sur Monte Alban
Panorama on Monte Alban

Former capital of the Zapotecs, its foundation dates back to 500 BC. If we compare the other cities with which Monte Alban has had close ties, such as Teotihuacan, the architectural structures that we can observe there are much less imposing. The preference would probably be due to the many earthquakes ravaging the region. Like most sites of this kind, Monte Alban has not 1, but 5 courts to play ball sports! Unlike football, players hit the ball with their hips, elbows or knees. You have to believe that ball games have always been very popular in Latin America.

This part of the site is called “Los Danzantes”, because of these stelae, which differ entirely from what the Zapotecs used to create. The characters are in dynamic positions, and have certain points in common. They are all men, naked, obese with large noses. Scholars believe that these engravings may have been influenced by Olmec art.

Pierre astronomique (cadran solaire), Monte Alban
Astronomical stone (sundial), Monte Alban

The site also has an observatory and an astronomical stone. This ancient clock only indicated one hour with certainty: noon, when the shadows are no longer. They also probably calculated when its shadow was widest on either side to further study the movement of the sun.

Hierve El Agua

We went on an adventure this time with new friends who invited us to accompany them a few hours drive from the city of Oaxaca, for an attraction called “Hierve el Agua”. Literally translated, it means “the water is boiling”. From there, you can imagine that what attracts so many tourists to these places are these natural hot springs. They are made up of a surplus of minerals and calcium carbonate which draws this white mineral cascade by its flow. One of the pools is very close to a cliff and gives you the impression of bathing in a vacuum. The wonder obviously comes with the queue for the perfect shot. You can observe impressive natural phenomena on this site and dream in front of the magnificent semi-desert panorama of this valley.

Hierve el Agua, Mexique
Hierve el Agua, Mexico

For a better overview of the region, see the video:

After all, it's our specialty ;)

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