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San Pablo Güilá, Oaxaca


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Templo de San Pablo Güilá, Colonial Architecture
Beyond the church’s bright and simple baroque façade lies an ancient and cavernous interior, the nave walls stretching long and high, lined with well-worn but still intact frescoes, the frescoes survival remarkable after so many centuries, the inside restored yet somehow its age preserved.

But the real showpiece of the church, the splendid main retablo, sits ensconced in the apse, the retablo completely gilded and covered in columns, paintings, figures in relief, and niches filled with statues. Also worthy of note are the small, twin shield-shaped retablos, set in the adjoining transepts.

Getting there & away
Probably for historic reasons — the main road through town was only recently paved — the townsfolk of San Pablo Güilá tend to travel east towards Highway 190, previously the closets paved road, and then north and west to Tlacolula, and maybe on to Oaxaca, instead of traveling west to Ocotlán, even though it's closer.

Now that highway between Ocotlán and Matatlan (Higway 190 south of Mitla) has been paved it will be interesting to see if this pattern of travel changes. For now, though, the easiest way to get to San Pablo Güilá from the city of Oaxaca is by colectivo from the large sitio southeast of the Abastos market (Mex$25-30).

From Ocotlán, there does not appear to be dedicated colectivo or camioneta service at this time. The colectivo drivers operating out of the sitio in Ocotlán for San Baltazar Chichicapam will run you to San Pablo Güilá as a special fare. Expect to pay between Mex$100-150, depending on how good of a negotiator you are. Alternatively, these same drivers will run you to San Pablo Güilá from San Baltazar Chichicapam. Expect to pay between Mex$60-90.

With none of the sights or activities that normally attract tourists, few tourists venture through this small east-west valley, the stunning natural landscape interrupted only by a smattering of small pueblos, large hot houses growing tomatoes or flowers, and fields of agave plants destined to be distilled and bottled as mezcal.

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