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

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.