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Is Hierve el Agua Open?

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Update: The Hierve el Agua site is open. The government and local community leaders have reached an agreement. Now it’s to see if everybody follows through on the agreement. The points below still stand as you explore the wonder of this world.

Hierve al Agua is a travertine rock formation created by geothermal springs, located east of Oaxaca, around a 90 minute drive. Over millennia, the spring water, heavy in calcium carbonate, created these massive formations that look like frozen waterfalls. At the top are other-worldly pools of green and blue water from which you can gaze out over the valley far below. They’re nature’s original infinity pools. And as one of the few sources of freshwater in the area, more than 2000 years ago, the Zapotec built canals channeling water down from the mountain, to irrigate crops and provide drinking water. 

The well-preserved ruins of Mitla, as well as the Guilá Naquitz Cave (home to the earliest evidence of domesticated corn, beans, and squash on the continent) are also nearby. So this is a special place. And it has been special for a very, very long time. We’re talking old here, like even before Myspace.

Maybe you want to check out this special place but you’ve heard mixed messages about it being open again. Local community members shut down the complex in the spring of 2021, protesting that politicians are personally benefiting from tour revenue and admissions at the site, while the local community has no money for roads, schools, or drinking water. The dispute between local indigenous communities and the state government has been going on for decades. The government then announced a deal had been reached in the summer of 2021, and said 200 tourists would be allowed in each day. There seems to be some confusion about the deal, though, because community members showed up with machetes and blocked off the roads to the site.

Full disclosure: I visited Hierve el Agua several years ago. Would I go when there’s a dispute with the local community? No, not until there’s a clear signal from the local community that they want tourists back and we know they’ll directly benefit from the money we’re spending in their community. 

Whether it’s open or not, perhaps the better question is: What do I want to give to the community and how can I best do that?

I’m not saying you’re clumsy, but maybe it’s best you’re not getting close to that edge.

To stay up-to-date on quality, community level information in the Oaxaca region, Facebook groups seem to have better info than news sites in the area. I find the Expats Oaxaca group has provided prompt, reliable updates on what’s happening in the area. I’ll also update here on any new info, but just remember: indigenous rights always beat your bucket list.

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