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 Land Use in the Environs of Monte Alban and Mitla Minimize

1. Agriculture

If there existed a single general land use at Monte Alban prior to its discovery it was agriculture. In photographs taken shortly before exploration of the main plaza one can see clearly how the soil of the sunken area of the plaza as well as the tops of some of the mounds and platforms had been prepared to serve as cropland. During the 1930s, as we have seen, the city of Oaxaca was still far from jumping the natural boundary of the Atoyac River, and the communities surrounding the present archaeological zone were still small settlements.

Agriculture at Monte Alban has always been seasonal on thin, steep soils, with the exception of a few topographically favorable areas which in many cases coincide with the monumental structures. During the pre-Columbian era the problem of slope eroison was resolved by building terraces to facilitate cultivation, as these retained sufficient soil and moisture to assure adequate and predictable production. In more recent times farmers have concentrated their efforts on areas with better, deeper soils for farming, practically abandoning the hillsides where a substantial investment of labor was no guarantee of production.

Traditional agricultural practices, i.e., seasonal, manual cultivation, has been compatible with the archaeological zone, as they did not affect the deeper soil strata. With the initiation of exploration at Monte Alban only the central plaza was declared off-limits to farming, resulting in an agricultural landscape surrounding the zone which provided continued protection. But even so these practices began to have an effect on archaeological resources, as in the twenty years after exploration began at Monte Alban farmers working nearby lands uncovered a number of pre-Columbian tombs in the process of plowing or other minor excavation related to agriculture. In general, however, for many years they maintained a stable, uniform land use surrounding the zone.

Unfortunately over time agricultural activity on the slopes of Monte Alban has gradually declined, and is now limited to those areas offering the best soils and moisture. On the other hand the urban spread of the city of Oaxaca has to an alarming degree displaced agriculture in favor of residential use, or under the best of circumstances to lands being left idle. In Santa Maria Atzompa agriculture is still practiced in small isolated patches on the middle and lower slopes of the Cerro de Atzompa, around the Cerro del Gallo, to a small degree in the Cañada, and on a few plots on the middle slopes of Monte Alban, where they overlay an area with a high density of archaeological remains. Atzompa's agricultural lands within the Monte Alban boundary amount to about 5 percent of its total supply (Figure 33). To the west agricultural use by San Pedro Ixtlahuaca is much higher, with about 35 percent of of its seasonal agricultural land within the boundary (Figure 34). Its location on the west side of Monte Alban makes it less subject to the urban uses found on the east side adjacent to the city of Oaxaca.

In the municipality of Xoxocatlan agriculture is in sharp decline, as ejido lands are subdivided and sold for residential use. There is still some modest production on communal lands and a few private parcels. In general terms about 15 percent of Xoxocatlan's land within the boundary are still farmed, but this use diminishes almost daily through subdivision and the formation of new urban neighborhoods (Figure 35). In the city of Oaxaca the only remaining agriculture adjacent to Monte Alban is on small plots in San Martin Mexicapam. About 25 percent of this agricultural land lies inside the archaeological zone boundary, and much of it is rich in artifacts (Figure 36). A generation ago agriculture was an important feature of the Monte Alban landscape, but it has now given way to less compatible uses.

In the case of Mitla, agriculture within the boundary of the archaeological zone has been a minor element in a variety of economic activities undertaken within urban households. That is, traditionally part of the compound of each home has been used to plant corn, beans, squash, herbs, flowers and fruit trees, essentially complementing craft production and/or commercial activities. In spite of an arid landscape consisting largely of abandoned agricultural lands surrounding the urban part of contemporary Mitla, Parsons tells us how in 1931 Mitla was still self-sufficient in the production of corn, beans, and squash, with fields of peas, alfalfa, maguey, castor beans, and cactus such as nopal and pitaya raised for human use (Parsons 1936: 51). Even then, however, most cultivation took place on lands more distant from the archaeological zone, on the riverbanks where farmers planted alfalfa, carrizo, and early corn, or on some distant hillsides where there were some modest small-scale irrigation systems. In town household plots, usually under the care of women or children, made small contributions to the family economy. Today older informants estimate that less than 25 percent of the household plots which existed in 1975 are still in production.

Currently agriculture has a minimal importance among the economic activities of the community. Within the archaeological zone less than one percent of the land is still considered agricultural, and most of that is idle (Figure 37). Little land is cultivated, except by a few older men still willing to work it for the pittance it produces. Males in the work force find employment in commerce and services, as laborers, or they "go north", a term locally understood to mean they go to the United States as undocumented workers or, more likely, they go to Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan to sell handicrafts on the beach.

It is clear that in a relatively short time agricultural activity around these two archaeological zones has essentially collapsed. Changes in land use or its abandonment attenuates the sense of connection or identification its previous users might have had with the surroundings of the archaeological zones. On the other hand, it also means that for most alternative uses the owner is likely to seek authorization for construction which requires deeper penetration of the subsoil, thereby increasing the potential for damaging archaeological remains.

2. Grazing

In addition to cultivation there is also a long tradition of grazing in the Oaxaca Valley. The communities surrounding Monte Alban generally supplement their economies based on agriculture and unskilled labor with goats and cows, as the three hills which make up the Monte Alban complex provide an attractive landscape for such livestock to graze. Herds of cows and goats from at least ten settlements surrounding the archaeological site graze there on a regular basis. Intensive grazing promotes deforestation and consequently erosion, as the livestock consume the young shoots of emerging vegetation. During the mid-1990s two seasons of intensive reforestation intended to revive the landscape and create green barriers to invasion of the archaeological zone have failed due to overgrazing.

In 1994, as part of the Monte Alban Special Project, a sub-project intended to attack the ecological deterioration of the site sought to foster what was dubbed the "Green Wall" (Peralta 1994). The objective was to reforest first the boundary areas and then toward the interior of the zone. The initial phase of the project involved close contact with the surrounding communities including polling, cultivating local influentials and officials, working groups, and community assemblies. In addition to INAH the collaborating agencies were SEDESOL, SEDAF, PROFEPA, Reforma Agraria, and the city of Oaxaca's Bureau of Municipal Ecology. Taking San Juan Chapultepec as an example, this joint effort in May and June, 1994, produced a green barrier stretching more than 1000 yards with approximately 1550 maguey plants, 1280 pines, 400 casuarinas, 150 guajes and 150 guamuchiles (Peralta 1994:16). A report dated 23 July 1994 indicated more than 1000 each of magueys and pines had been destroyed, and in September, 1994, Peralta concluded "it is worth noting 30 percent of the plantings has survived, but the majority have been devoured" (Peralta 1994: 17).

Later that same year, as the Monte Alban Special Project came to a close, another attempt, this time led by SEDESOL, sought to reforest areas of Atzompa and San Martin Mexicapam. This project also sought to work through the local communities and with the assistance of the Mexican army, but the results were the same. Oaxaca's Bureau of Municipal Ecology made an effort to reach agreements with livestock owners to avoid grazing the reforested areas, and subsequently established sanctions for the owners of goats found there, but no method proved effective in controlling further deforestation (Peralta 1994: 14). As the urbanized area expands and grazing lands become more scarce, pressures for using Monte Alban intensify rather than decline.

The area inside Mitla's archaeological zone is different, as being almost completely urbanized grazing is not an issue. But this is not true on the intermediate slopes of the mountains to the north or northeast, where abundant herds of goats and some cattle graze. These areas clearly show accelerated desertification caused at least in part by overgrazing. The slopes are Mitla's communal lands, outside any jurisdiction or oversight by INAH, and the community has not addressed the issue. As flocks may be tended by the children or elderly and represent a means of diversifying household incomes, there would be widespread reluctance to adopt protective strategies without assurance that everyone would be required to support them.

While grazing does not appear to cause direct damage in either archaeological zone, the erosion which seems inevitable does affect archaeological remains. And a lamentable side effect is that grazing appears to contribute to looting. Many of the tombs looted on the west slopes of Monte Alban appear to be the work of goatherders, as in the time they are nominally looking after the goats they may also search for and excavate tombs. Similarly, in Mitla on two occasions archaeologists have had to engage in salvage archaeology on semi-looted tombs reported by "curious" goatherders (Robles 1989 and 1995, unpublished reports, Archives INAH CRO). Thus uncontrolled grazing may have two negative effects on archaeological sites.

3. Exploitation of Forest and Other Resources

Another important agent contributing to the deterioration of Monte Alban's environment has been the indiscriminate extraction of the tree species known as Copal or Copalillo, once found extensively on the hillsides of the site. Since 1986 herders and artisans from communities such as Arrazola and San Martin Tilcajete have based an important part of their economies on craft production of "alebrijes", fanciful, brightly painted wooden sculptures which often take advantage of the natural shapes of these species (Barbash 1993). With success in the national and international markets local sculptors demanded more and more copal, as the shapes and workability of copal made it especially attractive as a raw material. Exploitation of the stands of copal on Monte Alban, Cerro del Gallo and Cerro de Atzompa began in the late 1980s, completely wiping out the species in the area. Efforts to reforest with copal led to cutting of even the smallest shoots for sculptures, and today the artisans must truck in copal from more distant communities. Neither the governmental agencies charged with environmental protection nor the communities themselves have addressed this issue, much less the sculptors who never replanted a single tree to replace the material they cut.

Other species of native vegetation have been heavily exploited, above all those which may be used as firewood. As population concentrations have grown larger and closer to Monte Alban the number of people who seek to collect firewood also grows, and rapid increases in the price of bottled cooking gas makes firewood even more important for many households. Unfortunately no plant inventory of Monte Alban exists, making it impossible to know what other species may be used or overexploited by surrounding populations, but in general exploitation is growing. The observable outcome is that increasingly the zone shows signs of ecological deterioration and erosion affecting archaeological resources.

Although the extraction of mineral resources is minimal, it has had considerable importance in the Cañada, where flagstone is extracted for architectural projects around the city. In 1995 Atzompa's municipal authorities provided large quantitiies of flagstone to the city of Oaxaca for ornamental street paving in the historic district. The flagstone was extracted by heavy machinery, in the process creating a series of terraces quickly appropriated as housing sites by people invading the boundaries of Monte Alban. The municipal authorities of Atzompa and Oaxaca collaborated in facilitating this invasion through the apparent understanding that the flagstone would be removed in such a way as to prepare the site for residential use. Thus resources which make up the setting for one heritage site are removed for the beautification of another heritage site, and in the process expose the first to a double degradation by damaging the natural landscape and contributing to irregular invasion. This led Winter to observe "There is a contradictory policy for the two components of the World Heritage Site, in that it supports the destruction of part of Monte Alban to "improve" the appearance of the city of Oaxaca" (Winter 1996, Archaeology Section Archives, INAH CRO).

Grazing and resource extraction takes place in areas otherwise unused or with natural vegetation, without regard for land tenure or existing deterioration. For example we see that 80 percent of Atzompa's lands within Monte Alban's boundaries may be considered unused, 2/3 of which is either completely deforested or in the process of degradation. For the city of Oaxaca 70 percent of the lands within the boundary are unused, but 80 percent of those lands should be considered degraded. For San Pedro Ixtlahuaca the figures as 65 percent unused with 2/3 degraded, and for Xoxocatlan 80 percent of the lands are unused with about 50 percent degraded. While to the casual observer who thinks of Monte Alban strictly in terms of its Central Plaza the rest of the zone may appear to be an attractive protected area, the reality is that it has been suffering a complex degradation which governments not only appear to be incapable of stopping, but which they sometimes foster.

In 1931 Parsons listed as one of the economic activities of Mitla the sale of house beams cut from its forests (Parsons 1931: plate VII). Sixty-five years later these forests had disappeared, wiped out by overcutting. Ironically most of the large trees found in Mitla today are in house patios or public spaces, places where they are protected from depredation. The only extractive activity still practiced is the mining of pink limestone for foundations, walls, or facades. This resource is exploited on communal lands by municipal authorities in the name of the community, either to be used in public works or sold to individuals. Although the quarry site lies outside the archaeological zone it is on the path to the Mitla Fortress, a massive rock outcropping used by prehispanic residents as a defensive stronghold against raiders and invaders. The ever-expanding quarry creates a major crater as a visual and physical interruption in the connection of the two cultural resources.

In Mitla the local population also long practiced a kind of "archaeological mining", or the intensive appropriation and reuse of materials from old buildings and platforms for new construction. This, while not strictly exploitation of natural resources, in essence treated pre-Columbian buildings as a source of building materials as a readily-accessible alternative to the quarry mentioned above. Its effect was to further damage structures and greatly reduce their volume. Recovering some of these materials, house by house, to reincorporate them in the-Columbian walls, is a challenge which Batres discusses in his reports of work at Mitla at the start of the twentieth century (Batres 1908).

4. Residential Use

Modern human settlements represent a relatively recent use of the lower slopes of the east and southeast fronts of Monte Alban. The conversion of this land to residential use springs from the gradual expansion of the urban core to the west and southwest in the 1960s. At that time public transportation barely reached San Juan Chapultepec, but it gave some access to this area. These early settlements on the fringe of the archaeological zone consisted of clusters of poor shacks, but over time they became more substantial as individual investment, public infrastructure, and political organization converted them into "colonias". In Higgins' words "colonias are not legal subdivisions which are part of the structure of the city, but represent an unplanned growth of the same" (Higgins 1974: 27).

At present we can see two types of human settlements around the slopes of Monte Alban. One of these is the aforementioned "colonia" (Butterworth 1973; Higgins 1974; Murphy and Stepick 1991). This form emerged on the periphery of the city around 1940, coinciding with new routes of communication and patterns of urban growth which created a scarcity of and higher cost for urban housing (Butterworth 1973: 212). Initially constructed of discarded, recycled, or low-cost materials…used posts and beams, corrugated cardboard, scraps of wood, or sheets of tin used to prepare food or soft drink containers. Such sheets often have printing or other quality imperfections which make them unacceptable for their intended use, so they enter the low cost housing materials market. They find ready acceptance for temporary construction, and therefore appear around the archaeological zone.

Colonias tend to follow a basic developmental pattern. Once about ten families have settled in a given spot household heads gather to demand the basic services of water and electricity. In the meantime they live in wretched conditions: without electricity, on dirt streets with no sanitation or sewers, walking long distances to find potable water. The irregular status of the settlement means they have no direct access to public transport or services such as vaccination campaigns and other health programs. During a second phase, which may take years to emerge, residents begin to pressure for other services: schools, sewage, transportation, paved streets. Higgins labels these "mature colonias" (Higgins 1974) and notes they usually are associated with a process of housing improvements such as concrete roofs, brick walls, and more sturdy construction. Even so these improvements basically reflect do-it-yourself construction without regard to formal plans or regulations.

Another component in colonia development is the land speculator. These individuals gain access to ejido or communal lands committees, and through corruption or pressure, arrange to have lands to which they have no legal right transferred to them for resale to families looking for homesites on the urban periphery. During a field survey in November, 1995, it was possible to identify plots, usually 200 square meters, for sale at 3000, 5000, or 8000 pesos under conditions where no legal titles to the land were available to the seller. Such plots, often with dubious or fabricated titles, are common elements in colonia formation. After the official declaration of Monte Alban boundaries in 1994 the occupation of land speculator became popular in the neighboring communities. Not only private manipulators but municipal presidents, vice-presidents, and treasurers as well as ejidal and communal lands committee members entered the speculation game.

As for the families who create the colonias, it is obvious that one commonality is that they are poor migrants arriving from elsewhere. Nevertheless they are not all peasants from rural indigenous communities who have come to the city in search of work, as was the case in 1878 (Yescas Peralta 1958: 779). Today the majority are families from towns across the state (Rees, et al 1991) who have lived as renters for some time in the city of Oaxaca. Having accumulated some capital (Butterworth 1973: 220) and finding the cost of housing in the city center prohibitive, they opt to move to a nearby suburban area where they can purchase a low-cost lot and have the possibility of a home through owner-built construction. Land on the slopes of Monte Alban fits this need, for as ejidal or communal lands no longer in use those holding the use rights prefer to subdivide and sell parcels cheaply to low-income people who will not demand formal title.

While there has been no formal socioeconomic study of the Monte Alban "colonias", systematic observation suggests some common denominators:

an apathy related to a sense of rootlessness and commitment to a new neighborhood where everyone is from outside and feels little connection to the local community;
social problems such as under-employment, alcoholism and substance abuse, poor sanitary and health conditions, and threats of violence; and
a lack of confidence in governmental institutions.
Monte Alban Colonias, by Municipality (Figure 38)

Atzompa
(north side)    (south side or Cañada)
Forestal    La Cañada
Guelaguetza    Ampliación La Cañada
Ampliacion Guelaguetza    Loma Grande
Ejidal Santa Maria    Agencia Monte Alban
La Ilusion   
Oxaca de Juarez
(San Martin Mexicapam)    (San Juan Chapultepec)
Hidalgo    El Progreso
Moctezuma    El Coquito
Monte Alban    La Cuevita
Carlos Salinas de Gortari    El Rosario Santa Ana
Xoxocotlan
Del Valle    Insurgentes
Emiliano Zapata    El Chapulin
El Paraguito    Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
Santa Elena    Lomas de San Javier

The second type of settlement found around Monte Alban is the official "subdivision" financed by governmental sources, principally the state government of Oaxaca through its Oaxaca Housing Institute (IVO for its initials in Spanish). These subdivisions have been located the the state government on lands it has acquired at low cost via purchase from private owners or through agreements with the Communal Lands Committees of various municipalities. The construction of official "subdivisions" stems from a strong housing demand by lower-level salaried employees, particularly those who work for the state or federal governments or for businesses in the service or commercial sectors whose employees have access to benefits through one of the governmental programs for citizen welfare, such as IMSS or ISSSTE. In one of the sharper policy conflicts over Monte Alban, the state government has consciously settled hundreds of families in an area where the federal government restricts land use because of proximity to the archaeological zone. At its best this conflict suggests a lack of communication between the two levels of government and a failure to understand the impact of development plans associated with urban growth on the archaeological zone. Another perspective is that even while the state government spends increasing amounts to promote tourism in Oaxaca, it at the same time opts for politically comfortable choices which ironically place in jeoprady its premier tourist attraction.

Each subdivision comes complete with services: electricity, water, sewers, paved streets, minimal green spaces or parks, police protection, and access to schools and transportation. Individual houses contain the basic spaces for a modern middle-class family: living room/dining room, kitchen, bathroom, two or three bedrooms, a small service area and a small yard or carport. The materials of which these houses are constructed are not high quality; they barely meet acceptable construction standards for the city of Oaxaca. Nevertheless they receive blanket approval or through petty corruption standards are ignored, e.g., third class concrete block in used in wall construction or steel framing is of poor quality. The low quality notwithstanding, these projects may be the only alternative for a lower income salaried worker to have an adequate home. The right to purchase one of these homes is decided via a raffle, and the employee winning the right to buy feels truly fortunate to have an opportunity to begin to form a personal estate.

At this writing there are six official subdivisions on the east slopes of Monte Alban: Colinas de Monte Alban, Montoya, Montoya IVO, Los Alamos IVO, Jardin de las Lomas IVO, y Los Alamos INFONAVIT. In scale they range from the 540 units at Colins de Monte Alban to the 2148 houses the Montoya-Los Alamos complex projects when fully built out (Figure 39). The large size represents an aggressive urban intrusion into the natural or cultivated setting the archaeological zone long enjoyed. The continuity of the mountain environment now suffers a violent interruption by modern materials. The population concentration attracts stores and services, which in turn attract additional population to the area, increasing the pressure on the archaeological zone. As will be evident in the chapter on social groups, the arrival of new homeowners whose presence in the subdivision derives from winning a raffle means most lack even a minimal cultural identification with the adjacent archaeological zone. In turn its conservation or existence has little meaning for them.

At present the percentage of the archaeological zone covered by housing is minimal. Approximately ten percent of the lands belonging to Atzompa and Xoxocotlan within the archaeological zone are devoted to housing, a figure which declines to two percent in the case of the city of Oaxaca and less than one percent for the lands of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca. The concern is the rate at which urban uses are beginning to take hold on the periphery of the archaeological zone. We have now seen the impact of such changes in the chapter on boundary definition, as the 1992 modification of the site boundary is attributable primarily to land settlements and invasions overrunning the 1986 boundary. It is evident the urban growth of the city of Oaxaca has found on the slopes of Monte Alban, though both planned and unplanned development, a means of providing relatively low cost housing sites. Development plans which recognize the areas INAH seeks to protect have proven totally ineffective in controlling urban sprawl as they lack any meaningful regulatory capability. Prepared without the participation and commitment of the communities, none of the affected parties feels an obligation to enforce them, and they become rarely-consulted additions to the municipal archives.

In this sense modern housing has become part of the landscape on the east slopes of Monte Alban and in the Cañada. Modern settlements fundamentally alter the landscape which bounded the pre-Columbian city and which should be preserved as an integral part of the site. They also alter the environment substantially by representing important sources of pollution from trash, excrement, noise, gases and structures, pollution completely alien to the history and ambience of an archaeological monument. Finally, the residential construction and excavation for installation of services implies a series of excavations in the sub-soil which inevitably put at risk a high proportion of the archaeological remains to be found there. Each trench opened as part of a new foundation potentially represents destruction of the archaeological record. The INAH regional office in Oaxaca issued a finding opposing the construction at Montoya once its magnitude was known (Robles and Zarate 1984: Archaeology Section Archives, CRO-INAH). But once the state government has decided on its plans and investment priorities it is extremely difficult to convince the government to back off.

In practice this destruction can reach rather dramatic levels, as in the case of the section known as "el Paraguito" in Xoxocotlan, where the new settlement completely destroyed a pre-Columbian plaza surrounded by three mounds. This became the site for a chapel and for the soccer field of a nearby school. Each day portions of the mounds disappeared to make way for new housing. An INAH custodian sent to gather data on the destruction was threatened with machetes until he left the settlement (Oliveros, personal communication, 1995).

In terms of residential use of lands in and adjacent to archaeolgoical monuments, Mitla has a far longer history than Monte Alban, as reported in an earlier study (Robles and Moreira 1990: 77). One consequence is that since the colonial era a traditional Zapotec community has surrounded and encroached upon the prinicipal platforms and monumental structures. For this reason Mitla offers us lessons on both the processes of encroachment and the difficulties occasioned by the lack of a timely and appropriate response.

At the time Parsons conducted her research Mitla was divided into six barrios or neighborhoods: San Salvador, San Pablo (sometimes called Peñasco), La Soledad, La Resurreccion, La Asuncion, and El Centro (or Rosario). The area known locally as "the ruins" (the North and Columns groups) was located on the northern side of San Pablo (Parsons 1936: 6-7), as was the Arroyo group. Parsons' map of house locations (Parsons 1936: Map II) shows us urban use had spread as far as the Columns and North groups, but only in the form of some isolated houses on the west side toward the priest's house (5 houses reported), the same number near the Arroyo group, and a somewhat higher density near the Columns group....24 houses. Around the Adobe group, in the Barrio of the Resurreccion, Parsons reports five houses, and four more around the South group in the Barrio of El Rosario.

A 1975 aerial photo reveals more extensive settlement to the north of the North group, with approximately twelve houses, and the same number appears around the Adobe group. The Arroyo group shows fourteen, and the South group has fifteen houses. Only the area near the group of the Columns remained stable, with approximately twenty houses (Cia. Mexicana Aerofoto 1975). The growth since 1975 has been both increasing density in plot use and penetration of the legal boundaries of the archaeological zone. The mountain slope on the north side of the community, an area which does not even appear on Parsons' map, by the mid-1990s held forty houses, and the flat space between the North group and the mountain....still vacant in 1975....has become thickly settled.

Around the Columns group family compounds are also undergoing subdivision, and in the Arroyo group a chaotic dispersal of households invades the space around the monumental structures themselves, as the fourteen properties reported in 1975 experience subdivision. The fifteen properties around the South group also have been subdivided, and the Adobe group now shares its space with a school as well as houses. By the mid-1990s approximately 80 percent of the space within the official archaeological boundary of Mitla is in fact used for residential purposes. In reality its use may be far more intrusive and destructive, as many households combine residential use with spaces to sell crafts or for commercial purposes such as restaurants, services, or shop rental. As most of the lands in Mitla are in communal tenure, invasions or alterations of the archaeological zone reflect a lack of sensitivity on the part of the local populations as well as of the officials charged with managing land use. Officials generally are far more attentive to the possibility of economic gain through tourism from lands surrounding the archaeological zone than to the significance of their protection.

Much of this increasing density is attributable to subdivision of family compounds via gifts or inheritance. In 1975 what was one property near the North group today has been subdivided among seven owners, children of the original householder. This phenomenon of subdivision is recent but widespread. While precise data on the size of the original parcels allocated by the community to families seeking a place to establish a household are not available, sources such as Parsons' map suggest they had an area of 800 to 1000 square meters. As population increased in recent decades a lack of disposable land near major commercial arteries stimulated subdivision of large compounds to house maturing extended families and their enterprises. This means that near the archaeological zone there is an increasing concentration of population, with the consequent problems of competition for land use, pollution, or land invasion.

In addition, within the community the concept of "Ruinas" (the archaeological zone) is interpreted as meaning solely the group of the Columns. As a consequence some of the other groups, i.e., the Arroyo and South groups, have been distributed among prospective land users, while the North and Adobe groups have been interpreted as church land. Thus efforts to recover these groups for incorporation into a broader interpretation of the archaeological zone means battling with the households who currently control them, and who may wish to remove them in order to use the space they occupy or to take advantage of the building materials they contain.

Another recent complication is the enthusiasm for "remodelling" houses surrounding the monuments. If by the beginning of the 1970s the archaeological sites were being invaded, the housing surrounding them at least maintained the character of traditional Zapotec construction: rectangular rooms constructed of adobe or stone with neither plastering or windows, roofs of palm or tile over a wood frame, and dirt floors. Simpler houses might be built of carrizo and adobe, with straw roofs and fences of live organ cactus, as described by Parson in the 1930s. Parsons reported only three houses two stories tall (Parsons1936: 23). Thus the setting of the pre-Columbian monumental architecture maintained a largely authentic tone. But beginning in the 1970s there has been a shift toward "modern" construction, housing made of concrete block, with cement floors, doors and windows of iron, concrete roof, the use or abuse of aluminum and glass, and enormous walls of concrete block with large steel gates to permit passage of cargo trucks. While this construction facilitates status competition it also requires demolition of older structures and walls of adobe. The result is a brutal attack on the authenticity and arquitectural tradition of a Zapotec community.

In Mitla as in Monte Alban we can see that the nature of housing issues tends to define the physical surroundings of the archeological zones. Although federal law grants INAH the power to halt and sanction unauthorized work on archaeological land (INAH 1980), INAH lacks the practical capacity to halt urban sprawl threatening Monte Alban, much less control land use and construction abuses in Mitla. In part this is attributable to the reality that application of the law depends on the INAH bureaucracy, whose Legal Department is staffed by attorneys who consistently demonstrate a lack of experience and professional preparation in defence of cultural resources. Enforcement of the law also depends on the resources of the federal Attorney General, whose personnel are always busy with priority assignments (such as anti-narcotics operations) or searching for guerrillas, and have little time to allocate to an institution dedicated to culture.

Nevertheless there is another element to INAH with a significant negative impact on institutional performance in resource protection, and that is the lack of preparation among INAH archaeologists for evaluating construction permit requests according to best professional practice. A clear case of this can be seen in the permit granted to a landowner to construct the foundations of his new house within one of the pre-Columbian houses in the Arroyo group (Winter 1979 Archaeology Section Archive, INAH CRO). It demonstrated the archaeologist granting the permit did not know the site and had no sense of the relationship between the scale of the site and the projected construction (Figure 40).

In a broader context the fundamental problem springs from a lack of awareness of or identification with a series of values gradually disappearing when confronted by expressions of the modern world, whether in the marginal neighborhoods on the slopes of Monte Alban or in a community in the throes of commercialization such as Mitla. This disappearance leaves archaeological sites and their surroundings increasing vulnerable to actions, attitudes, and circumstances which threaten their existence. The irony, of course, is at the same time it is the modern world which seeks to make use of cultural resources as economic resources, and by permitting their abuse, vandalism, and destruction it reduces its capacity to sustain the day-to-day livelihoods and grand development projects dependent on tourism.

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