Oaxaca has long been one of my favorite spots in Mexico. The richness of its traditions and the wild beauty of its coast is well known and appreciated by Mexicans and foreigners alike. However, there is a treasure in the land of Oaxaca that has escaped the eye of the common traveler, and it's deep and high into the mountains. This treasure is called "Pueblos Mancomunados" (Commonwealth Villages). It's a group of eight villages perched on the mountains south of the city of Oaxaca. The highest one is located 3000 meters above sea level.
As I drive up the dirt road that leads to Benito Juarez, I encounter the first village, and out of the trees lining the road, an eagle flies out with prey hanging form its beak. "Im up for a wild ride!" I think to myself as I start my journey. I imagine how it must have been for the first few that, as the legend says, ventured from the city into the mountains in search for better lands to call home. This was more than 500 years ago, the story says, when ten families left their hometown "Macuilxochitl" in the valley of Oaxaca and started a journey into the Sierra. Along the years of their pilgrimage they settled in various spots. As I visit each town, I hear in people the pride and honor they have for their way of life since those times. They remember the values of their forefathers clearly. The legend reminds them that Macuilxochitl means the "the four paths of existence and the unifying center." This guides them to find that balance in everyday life between the four paths: the material, the spiritual, reason and intuition, and to find their balance always in the center.
It's six in the morning, I'm in Llano Grande, the highest of the eight villages. Im waiting for the guide that is supposed to take me to the best viewpoint to see the sunrise. I wait for ten minutes, and there is no trace of him. Fifteen minutes and still nothing, I look at the sky and its rich blue, the sun is coming, and I don't wan't to miss it. I grab my equipment, get into my van and start driving, literally following the light, where the blue looks brightest. After a while on this winding little road, I find a spot to park, and I get out of the car and start running up the hill. The sky is almost fully bright now; I run as fast as possible even though all the photo equipment is heavy, but I don´t feel it: all I care for in that moment is the sunrise. I finally reach the top of the hill, sweating and panting, and just as I drop my bags on the grass the first ray of the sun shines on top of the high clouds. The sight brings me to my knees in gratitude and awe. I see why locals call themselves people of the clouds.