The town boasts several extremely large and ancient
Montezuma Cypress trees. The largest - THE Tule Tree - dwarfs the
town's church and is more than 2,000 years old. This tree has a
circumference of 54 meters (164 feet) -- the largest girth of any
tree on the planet. Imagine ... this tree was a sapling at the time
when the Zapotec
civilization at Monte
Albán was flourishing!
GOD'S WALKING STICK
Local children point out unusual figures one can see in the tree.
With pocket mirrors reflecting the sun, the guides will point out
figures such as the squirrel's tail and Carlos
A recent addition to the children's English-language
lexicon is pointing out the 'butt' of Monica Lewinski, though if
asked who she is, the typical response is 'an artist.' Other notable
figures are used for tours given in German and Mexican Spanish.
A belief of the Ayuuk (Mixe)
is that the tree is the walking stick of one of their gods that
took root and grew into the famous tree.
The cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) known in Spanish
as a sabino, in Náhuatl
-- the language of the Aztecs
-- ahuehuete and in Central Valley Zapotec Yagaguichiciña,
is Mexico's national tree. According to legend, Hernan Cortes cried
beneath the boughs of a cypress after the Aztecs defeated the Spanish
on La Noche Triste (The Sad Night).
The area surrounding the mammoth trees was formerly a marsh filled
with cattails or
bulrushes, known in Spanish as tules, which gives the
town (and confusingly the tree) its name. Environmental degradation
as well as increased urbanization and irrigated farming have diverted
water from the aquifers. During the dry season, the water table
decreases more than six meters (20 feet).
According to the local environmental group Mi Amigo el Arbol headed
by environmentalist Jorge Velasco, if only two of the underground
aquifers were restored, there would be sufficient recharge of groundwater
supplies to ensure the survival of these trees.
"The most effective solution to ensure survival is to have
enough water throughout the year as needed to replenish the aquifers
and to be vigilant on water use so that it is appropriate for local
needs and avoid wastefulness."
This initiative bears watching to see if development runs the course
of Joni Mitchell's classic 'Big
Yellow Taxi' or charts a new direction by making the tree the
centerpiece for bioregional planning.
In 2005 city authorities removed the youngest tree, one that had
been planted by the King of Spain in the 1990s.
In Oaxaca's new-found 'tree consciousness' some environmentalists
were angered that the tree was uprooted, though others were pleased
that the oldest trees would not have to compete with a young upstart
for limited water resources.