Between San Pedro and San Pablo Tespocolula and Tlaxiaco, just a bit after the very quaint Santiago Yolomecatl you see an arch off to the side of the highway announcing the entrance to San Martin Huamelulpam. This little town of under 2000 inhabitants has the fortune of being just off the highway. I suppose that fortune is either good or bad depending on how you look at it. As the highway doesn’t pass directly through town, probably few people decide to stop if they hadn’t already planned on stopping there. Which probably means it’s avoided a considerable amount of problems. But it also probably means it’s missed out on a considerable amount of visitor revenue.
I’d read about Huamelulpan after arriving in the Mixteca 20 some years ago but never visited until recently. And now that I have, I wish I’d gone sooner. It always seemed like one of those places I’d get to eventually. I hadn’t realized that it should have been much higher on my travel list.
The main attraction is the archaeological site, know as Yucunindaba in Mixteco, and the accompanying community museum, named Ihitalulu, “little flower”. I have been to several smaller archaeological sites around Mexico, almost every town in Oaxaca has some remains of what had been there before the modern era. I also know that Mexico, and Oaxaca in particular, has more sites than it can possibly fully explore, condition, and keep up for visitors, so I was kind of expecting not to be impressed. Instead, I was blown away. The site, like many in the Mixteca, is completely unattended or marked in any way, I’ve been to several such sites, but this has to be the largest “just there” site I’ve ever been to.
The site has construction from three distinct periods going back as far as 400 BC. The city was built on the hill, terrace style, with three main clusters and two secondary clusters. The site was surveyed by Alfonso Caso in 1933, but it was not until 1959 when some excavation work uncovered the large main pyramid and an adjoining ball court. The plaza in this cluster, known as the “conjunto del templo“, the Church group, as it’s located just behind the 18th Century Catholic Church, several tombs were also uncovered, the contents of which are on display in the town museum. The main pyramid has an opening where you can peek inside–we saw several snakes while we were there, so please use caution poking into dark places. There was even one snake descending the stairs of the pyramid which was actually way cooler to watch than the shadow on the Castillo of Chichen Itza that I saw on March 21, 1990.
The Museum is wonderful. It has two rooms, one dedicated to the archaeological site and the other to traditional herbal medicine of the community. There is plenty of information, if you can read Spanish, and it is well displayed. The display on herbal medicine includes interviews with several of the towns elders, photographs, samples of herbs and dioramas to give you an idea of healing practices.
The museum is on a very cute little square, filled with Jacaranda trees, so visit in the spring if you can. There’s a shady parking lot across from the square and it’s a short but steep walk up to the ruins. If you have trouble walking on rough terrain you can drive the few blocks, but otherwise it’s a less than ten-minute walk.
We did not enquire as to dinning or lodging in town but it’s close enough to either Teposcolula or Tlaxiaco to make it there.