Viva la Vida – Part 4

Viva la vida – Part 4

Viva la Vida – Part 4

Pyramids of the Sun and Moon

First thing in the morning I walked to the designated meeting point and was picked up by the tour group going to see the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon in Teotihuacan about an hour’s drive from Mexico City. The tour group was made up of people from all over. Denmark, Quebec, Portugal, Brazil, England, Chicago, India were all represented. It was a diverse group. 

One other passenger was a solo woman traveler from Los Gatos, a town just south of SF. She knew about The Boxshop (an artspace in SF where I used to have a studio) and we had a mutual acquaintance. We hit it off and discovered we have a lot of common interests. She has traveled all over the world and was formerly a veterinarian who cared for many kinds of animals: zoo animals, wild animals, farm animals and pets. We had lively conversations.

The Marketplace and the Massacre

Our first stop was a site in the city, Tlatelolco. Marcos, our guide, said it was once a temple and a marketplace. Like the Templo Mayor the Spanish disassembled it and turned it into a cathedral. In comparison to the cathedral downtown this one was very rough hewn. Marcos said this archaeological site is considered sacred to the people of Mexico. 

In addition to the destruction of colonialism it was the site of a massacre of college students during the lead up to the 1968 Olympics. They were protesting the unfairness and racism of the implicit caste system which kept native people on the bottom and put lighter people of European descent on top.

On this spot, a wave of sadness came over me thinking about what had been lost and how people must’ve suffered. It is time for acknowledgment and atonement for past wrongs done in the name of domination.

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Tequila 101

Our second stop was to learn about tequila, pulque, maguey and all of the minerals of the region. A bright and lively young woman told us all the uses of the agave plant, also called maguey. It can be used as thread and woven into fabric. The points on the ends can be used as needles. It can be eaten in many different ways. Pulque is a delicious fermented alcoholic beverage made from maguey as are the distilled beverages, tequila and mescal. She showed us different minerals found in the valley surrounding Mexico City, aquamarine, opals, rainbow obsidian, amethyst, topaz and others. We learned how the Aztecs and Mayans used obsidian to study the sun and observe eclipses. She spoke with great pride about her ancestors and enjoyed teaching us about their culture. We had a little tequila, pulque and mescal tasting then we were off.

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Pyramids and the God of Rain

We continued on to Teotihuacan. As a city it reached its apex sometime around 1 BC – 500 AD. For centuries the pyramids were covered over with dirt and plants. When the Spanish showed up they were thought to be hills. Because of this they managed to survive being taken apart and used as building materials. Around 130 years ago they were rediscovered. The city at its peak it was one of the largest in the world at the time with around 125,000 residents. 

Seeing it was very impressive and made real the beauty, sophistication and artistry of the culture. A lot of thought went into  water collection. This was a primary factor in the architectural design to maximize its capture and storage. The god of rain and fertility, Tláloc, was the main focus of worship at Teotihuacan. Honoring and celebrating this god is still a part of native culture. The whole complex was abandoned around 750 AD, before the rise of the Aztecs and it is not known what caused the collapse. Being there only increased my curiosity to understand more about the history and mythology.

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The Indestructible Virgin

After stopping for lunch, we continued on to the Basilica of Santa Maria de Guadalupe. It’s a very popular site focused on the Virgin Mary and her contribution to the church. Around 20 million people visit it every year. Inside there is a painting of the Virgin Mary that survived a bomb explosion just after the revolution and it is considered sacred. They built a whole new basilica in 1974 to house it. The foundation of the old basilica was sinking into the ground, tilting dangerously and was deemed unsafe. The design is very unique and has a lot of features that reflect its era (1970s).

A large complex surrounds the main building and we went to see a chapel dedicated to water that is found underneath it and was thought to be miraculous until people starting getting sick from infections. To stop people from accessing the water they built a beautiful chapel, Capilla del Pocito, in the 1700s in a unusual, unique baroque style. It is covered with elements symbolizing water and visiting it is still thought to have restorative properties. People go there to pray for healing from themselves or their loved ones.

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Spirits and Water

It was a very long day and we covered a lot of ground. When we returned to the city, my new friend and I headed out for evening cocktails at Pata Negra in the District Centro near where she was staying. Then I walked along the Alameda and made my way back to my studio for another swim.

Written by jennalex

Artist and designer who explores the relationship between the natural world and the digital world and aims to create art and design that expands people's consciousness and creates meaningful experiences.

May 17, 2024