November 23 – 27
Our last day in Oaxaca would be busy and yet relaxing as we planned a trip to see the Tule Tree on the outskirts of town and then take a cooking class in the afternoon. After our very entertaining and successful class in Barcelona in 2017, we’ve eager to do another one and this seemed like an appropriate place to do so. We’d looked on-line for classes and many seemed interesting, almost all involving a shopping outing as part of the experience and then the cooking demonstration itself, along with eating the meal one had prepared. A bit pricey, but still likely worth the expenditure.
The day before, we were discussing classes with the staff at the front desk when the Canadian couple mentioned that the cook at the hotel, whose name we can’t recall so will refer to her as Bianca, would demonstrate cooking for us and that it was very reasonable in cost. So, we jumped on the recommendation and made arrangements for her to shop the next morning and conduct the class in the afternoon. Which brought us to today.
We debated for some time on how we were going to get out to the Tule Tree; not far in distance at eight miles, we again found it not easy to manage by city bus so instead called for a taxi to take us one way so that we could return by bus, as we did with Monte Alban. Our car arrived and off we went, winding our way through the crowded streets of downtown until we hit a main drag that took us in the direction we needed to go.
Upon arriving in the center of Santa María del Tule, our driver parked a block away and indicated that he would wait to drive us back to the hotel. And so, we walked to the plaza facing the tree and then approached it, admiring its size and beauty.
It is a Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum), or ahuehuete (meaning “old man of the water” in Nahuatl) and has the stoutest tree trunk in the world. In 2001, it was placed on a UNESCO tentative list of World Heritage Sites. In 2005, its trunk had a circumference of 137.8 ft, equating to a diameter of 46.1 ft, an increase from a measurement of 37.5 ft in 1982.
However, the trunk is heavily buttressed, giving a higher diameter reading than the true cross-sectional of the trunk represents; when this is taken into account, the diameter of the ‘smoothed out’ trunk is 30.8 ft. This is slightly wider than the next most stout tree known, a giant sequoia with a 29.2 ft diameter. The height is difficult to measure due to the very broad crown; the 2005 measurement, made by laser, is 116 ft.
The tree is so large that it was originally thought to be multiple trees, but DNA tests have proven that it is only one tree. This does not rule out another hypothesis, which states that it comprises multiple trunks from a single individual.
The age is unknown, with estimates ranging between 1,200 and 3,000 years, and even one claim of 6,000 years; the best scientific estimate based on growth rates is 1,433-1,600 years. Local Zapotec legend holds that it was planted about 1,400 years ago by Pechocha, a priest of the god that the Aztecs would call Ehecatl, the Aztec wind god; its location on a sacred site (later taken over by the Roman Catholic Church) would also support this.
The tree is occasionally nicknamed the “Tree of Life” from the images of animals that are reputedly visible in the tree’s gnarled trunk. As part of an official project local schoolchildren give tourists a tour of the tree and point out shapes of creatures on the trunk, including jaguars and elephants.
Finished with the tree we took the taxi back to Azucenas for a round trip cost of 300 Pesos ($16.40), again demonstrating how reasonable this form of transportation can be in Mexico. Back at the hotel and with some time to kill before the cooking class, we walked to the Zocalo to hang out. Part way there we stopped in at Lattente Café, a coffee house we’d spotted before to split a latte and a very nice piece of cheesecake.
This had been an unexpected bonus of our time in town, dropping into these different coffee outlets, all with their own unique set up and all offering excellent java and food at very reasonable prices. The total for our snack was 85 Pesos, less than $5 bucks for something that likely would have run us nearly double at home.
Back out on the streets, we stopped at a couple of shops looking for a few things to take home with us, reflective of the sights and culture we’d experienced so far. We scored at La Casa del Rebozo, a cooperative recommended in Lonely Planet, picking up a black ceramic religious figure for Kathy and a few other items for ourselves and others.
Down at the Zocalo, we checked out a gathering of the local fire and police departments; we weren’t sure why this event was being held, but lots of folks seemed interested. It was enough just to stand around soaking up the scene, the fire truck with the body hanging from the ladder, rows of police mopeds, and last but not least, a larger than life mascot version of a police officer or firefighter. Take your pick.
Seeing all we could see, we set off for our final stop of the day, the Museo Rufino Tamayo, which we had missed the day before due to its closing hours. By now familiar with this part of town, we easily made our way to the Museo and prepared to enter. We’ll talk about that and the rest of the day in our next post.
Tule Tree: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/el-arbol-del-tule-tule-tree
La Casa del Rebozo: http://lacasadelrebozo.com.mx/