Chiapas has the highest poverty rate in Mexico and is this country’s poorest state. Oaxaca ranks 4th. On our cruise down the Mexican coast from San Diego to the Panama Canal we stopped in 5 Mexican ports. The 1st was unscheduled Cabo San Lucas, a prosperous Hollywood hangout. The 2nd and 3rd were Puerto Vallarta, which used to be a Hollywood hangout, and safe Manzanillo, the sailfish capital of the world. #6 was supposed to be Puerto Chiapas, but we didn’t go ashore because of bad weather. That storm might have been fortunate. #5 was Huatulco, where I went to Copalita and Ruth went for a scenic drive and then to an arts and crafts museum.
Huatulco is in Oaxaca. This city was being groomed to become the Acapulco of the South in the 1980s but the concept never took off despite the continuing presence of several fine resorts and hotels. Huatulco’s population is dropping drastically and is less than half of what it was when the Mexican government had faith in its development. Copalita remains an excellent attraction for those interested in Mexican ruins despite the fact that the number of cruise ships coming to Huatulco’s dock has dwindled to 45 during the tourist season.
Opened to the public for less than 10 years, the Eco-Archaeological Park Copalita has ruins, rainforest, and fine views of both the Mexican Pacific coastline and the Sierra Madre Mountains if you climb up many uneven steps. From this high point you can see where the Copalita River flows into the Pacific and understand why the Tututepec people settled here and built temples and places for human sacrifice in this low growth jungle full of insects and birds.
Anna was our guide and a genuine local character. When I asked her if her people ever experienced a cool season she said they only had dry and wet. At one point she paused for us to admire how athletic and energetic she was despite the fact that she was 67 years old. Then she led us to the 1st of the 3 ruins we would see, The Pyramid of the Snakes. At the 2nd and larger ruin she spoke without much detail about those sacrifices and showed us the place where the combatants entered with only one of them scheduled to exit. Then she segued into her favorite ant recipe, raved about the taste of iguana, and told us that her people were Catholic but still believed in ancient, local traditions like the evil eye.
At the end of the tour Anna took us into Copalita’s new-looking museum/ visitor center and continued to tell us about what archaeologists have learned about the people who lived here more than a thousand years ago in this recently discovered place called Copalita.