This is the legend of the Zapotec princess Donaji, the granddaughter of the Zapotec king. When she was born, the Zapotecs, established in Zaachila, were immersed in a long lasting war withe the Mixtecs, who had settled in Monte Alban after the Zapotecs abandoned the city many decades ago. One day after a battle, Donaji found the Mixtec prince Nucano wounded and feeling sorry for the handsome prince, took him to her palace and took care him. It wasn’t long before they had fallen in love.
The Zapotecs were already tired of this war, so they offered peace to the Mixtecs, who accepted only with the condition of taking Donaji as a hostage to make sure the peace treaty was being respected. Donaji and Nucano then returned to Monte Alban together, but even though they were in love, the princess was worried about her people. So she wrote a letter to her father asking him to send someone to rescue her. The Zapotecs, wanting to rescue Donaji, attacked Monte Alban forcing the Mixtecs to run away. They were was so mad at the Zapotecs, but especially at their own prince, Nucano, for letting his love for the princess end in another war that they planned revenge. As a punishment, two Mixtecs decapitated the princess behind the prince’s back and told the Zapotecs where the body was buried, but they never told them where the head was. Here is where the legend begins.
One day, many years after this war, a young shepherd took his animals to pasture to a field near his home. The field was close to what today is San Agustin de las Juntas, near the Oaxaca International Airport. While the shepherd was there, he saw the most beautiful Madonna Lily flower he had ever seen and decided to take it home with him, but didn’t want to kill it, so he decided to take it with the roots. While he was digging he found a human ear, so he continued digging until he found a whole head. The head of a beautiful woman so well preserved, she seemed to be only sleeping. The rich decorations on the head confirmed to the shepherd that that was the long lost princess Donaji’s head. And he also discovered the Lily had born from her ear, as a symbol of love above all, including war. Love for one’s people, even above true love. The body and the head were finally buried together, in the Temple of Cuilapan.
[photos courtesy of Ybidau, AlejandroLinaresGarcia and Gengiskanhg]