Piedras Antiguas

The Ruins of Monte Alban Near Oaxaca

The Ruins of Monte Alban Near Oaxaca

Tonight, as Martine and I had dinner at the Monte Alban Restaurant in West L.A., I flashed back briefly to one of the best vacations I ever had, when my brother and I went to Mexico together in 1979. We started in Villahermosa (I’ll have to tell you about that particular experience in a later post), then went on to Palenque and San Cristóbal de las Casas and Oaxaca, ending up in Mexico City for the flight home.

Although the Monte Alban Restaurant serves Oaxacan specialties, particularly meats with mole sauce, I went for the non-mole dishes. Dining at one of the zócalo cafés in Oaxaca, I picked up a bug which I will forever refer to as the Oaxaca Caca. For about a day and a half, I hugged the porcelain while producing a cacophony of rectal groans from the underworld. I heard my brother laughing in the other room at my discomfort, and begged him to go to the market and pick up some bananas for me.

When I got better, we took a bus up to see the ancient Zapotec ruins on top of a hill near the city. While Dan and I were wandering around, we were accosted by a local who whispered to us, “Pssst, Señor … piedras antiguas.” With great drama, he opened up a piece of cloth that looked like dark blue velvet which contained several small carved stones meant to resemble ancient Zapotec carvings.

Well, they were piedras (stones) for sure … but antiguas (ancient)? We didn’t think so. If they were genuine, we’d be in danger of being arrested at the airport for illegally exporting a pre-Columbian artifact. And if they weren’t, we could certainly get a better price for them in the city. So we thanked the gentleman for sharing such a treasure with us, and went on to other parts of the ruin, where—surprise!—we met up with the original salesman’s brothers-in-law selling more piedras antiguas.