Message #214: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: Oconahua Celebrates Its 1,000-Year-Old Past Date: Sat, 07 Jun 1997 23:51:10 -0700 http://www.guadalajara-reporter.com/html/cultural.htm#5 The people of Oconahua, a pueblito almost entirely indigena (native American), formally invited the rest of the world to come to visit the ruins of el Palacio de Ocomo (the Ocomo Palace), one of the major archeological treasures of western Mexico. These ruins are located inside the town limits, but amazingly, they were never built upon (in memory of their former importance), even though they take up 60,000 cubic meters of "downtown" Oconahua. To the skillful beating of a drum, dozens of local children dressed in native costume, performed an ancient dance passed down from their forefathers, while slowly leading a crowd of officials, townspeople and camera crews across the town to the ruined palace where archeologists Phil and Celia Weigand spoke to the assembled onlookers about the ruins, as well as the significance of having placed the site under the patronage of the Culture Secretariat. Thanks to the Weigands' description, the crowd could imagine how the large, flat, rectangles upon which this dedication took place, must have looked between the year 1000 A.D. and the fateful arrival of the conquistadores. Previous to the year 1000, the center of the vast "empire" covering Jalisco, Colima and parts of other states was nearby Teuchitlan, famed for its unusual circular architecture. But after 700 AD this part of Mexico fell under the influence of the Aztecs. The "round pyramids" of Teuchitlan were abandoned and new administrative and ceremonial centers rose, most notably at Ocomo, where the magnificent palace (rectangular, in the Aztec tradition) was constructed. Today the base of this huge palace can be appreciated at Oconahua. Measuring 125 by 125 meters, it dwarfed even the palace of Moctezuma in Tenochtitlan, which was only half the size. This type of building, known as a tecpan was always U-shaped, with a large open patio in the center. In addition, the Ocomo Palace had a second patio behind it, decorated with tall stone stelae, according to stories passed down in Oconahua. While in most towns, pre-colonial ruins were eventually built over and forgotten, the enormous site of the Ocomo Palace has always remained uncovered, even though its floor of beautiful, quarried rock was eventually carried off for the construction of the local church. Precise knowledge about this palace is hard to come by, explained Phil Weigand, because "Western Mexico never had a Sahagun" to describe in detail what it was the conquistadores were destroying. Besides, the diseases of Europe preceded the arrival of the Spaniards in this area. "What the Spaniards found was chaos, so they had no indication of the orderliness and complexity of the society which dominated this part of Mexico." Thus, according to Weigand, was born the myth that "there was no complex society in western Mexico," a myth that survives to this day, although the archeological finds demonstrate the very opposite. The people of Oconahua are inviting visitors to their beloved palacio in the hope that their donations might help them eventually construct a library and a cultural center, two dreams which have met stiff opposition from the local municipal authorities whose only contribution to the festivities was their conspicuous absence. According to Weigand, all the municipio (located in nearby Etzatlan) had to say about the project was, "Why do they need a library? They're Indians and they can't read." The Oconahuans, however, turned out in droves to support their grass-roots endeavor. As Francisca Elena Arvizu, president of the Patronato del Palacio de Ocomo put it, with a far-away look in her eye, "This has always been the dream of my life and at long last it is coming true." You can reach the charming little town of Oconahua by taking highway 15 out of Guadalajara and following the signs for Ameca. After passing the large sugar refinery at Tala, turn right onto the road to Ahualulco. Oconahua is just off this same highway, about 30 kilometers past Ahualulco and a total of about 90 minutes from Guadalajara. Two blocks after entering the town (on Matamoros street) turn right onto Hidalgo and, just before the plaza, right again on to Independencia. Go four blocks and you will be very close to the ruins. Just ask anyone in town to point you at El Palacio de Ocomo. The fee for visiting the site is only five pesos, but you may wish to contribute more than that to help beef up the library/cultural center fund.