Monday, December 13, 2010

Greetings from Oconahua!

About a week from now I’ll be returning to the US, if all goes according to plan. I’m busy wrapping up my work here in Mexico and starting to pack my suitcases for the trip home. The holiday season is underway here now, as well. Sunday was one of the big religious celebrations of the year—the Virgin of Guadalupe’s feast day. The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. She is a version of the Virgin Mary who is said to have appeared to an Indian named Juan Diego in what is now part of Mexico City. There is a basilica (actually, there are two of them) build at the location where she first appeared which is a major destination for pilgrims each year. Pretty much every home, bus, and taxi here in Mexico has at least one picture or statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe and many girls here are named for her. Often on her day, you will see people set up altars to the Virgin in the street outside their homes. I saw one of them here in my town. There will be an altar, flowers, and decorations and chairs provided for people who want to come pray to the Virgin. These altars and the pilgrimages are often done as a show of devotion by someone who has asked the Virgin for help. There were also lots of fire crackers set off at all hours of day and night as is often the case in the days leading up to an important saint’s day.

The granddaughter of one of our workers here (and the daughter of another worker) was born on the Virgin of Guadalupe’s feast day, so there was a birthday party for her this weekend. It actually took place in the patio of my house here, so I got invited to join in on the fun. It was her third birthday, and most of the people here were kids ranging in age from 8 months to teens. There were 4 piñatas to be broken and 2 birthday cakes to be consumed. It was quite the afternoon! A couple of the fun things that were different from the parties I’m used to in the US were the cutting of the cake and the serving of the cake. After the Mañanitas were sung (the traditional Mexican birthday song) and the candle blown out, the birthday girl was told to take a bite out of the cake. As in leaning down and taking a bit bite out of the side of it. They had her do it to each of the cakes before they were sliced. Then the kids formed a line to get their cake. They line up according to height from shortest to tallest and get their cake in that order. Both of those events made me smile.

My photos this week are from the birthday party. One photo is of the birthday girl swinging at one of the piñatas. The small stick they had for hitting them broke, so someone got a huge handle to something like a shovel. There were a few scary moments as kids continued swinging while other kids were running in to try to grab some of the candy that had fallen out. The other photo is of some of the kids waiting in line for their birthday cake and jello.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


My work here is winding down just as the excavations are getting ready to get bigger. I have about a week’s worth of analysis left to do and about 2 weeks in which to complete it, so things are looking good for my getting finished before I am scheduled to leave. Excavations here in Oconahua started on a small scale a few weeks ago, with four men excavating. Hopefully sometime soon the money for the project arrives from the government so that excavations can expand to include many more workers and some more archaeologists.

The site here is known as the Palacio de Ocomo (Ocomo Palace) and consists of four huge platforms arranged in a square with an open area (known as a plaza) inside the square. There are also smaller platforms and foundations found underneath the modern town and in the areas surrounding the town. This site is believed to be more recent than the sites in the area like Los Guachimontones, which used circular arrangements for their big important architecture instead of a square arrangement.
I am not really here to work on this site, but to do the ceramic analysis that I need for my dissertation. Since the house I am living and working in is built on one of the huge platforms, though, I get a chance to visit the excavations several times a day and to help out a bit when needed.

This week’s photos are of the work being done at the Palacio. One is of the workers excavating. They are working on the outer wall of one of the huge platforms. The part in the foreground was excavated and restored last year. It shows three levels of walls, which are thought to be three different versions of the platform. After some time of using the platform, a new outer wall would be built and the platform would be made a bit bigger. The distance from the base of the wall (which is underground) to the top of the dirt pile is about 25 feet, so it is a pretty big platform! The other photo is of a team that came this week to take some readings using a ground penetrating radar. This device sends a signal into the ground and records how it bounces back. Once the results are processed, they can show things like rock walls hidden under the dirt. The orange box is the part that sends (and I think also receives) the signals. The other part has a monitor on it and is connected to the orange box by cables. The operator can see the results that are coming from the radar while the readings are being taken.