Week of November 09, 2003
Mexico City, a city of over 25 million inhabitants and has been the center of life and commerce for over 2,000 years. Teotihuacán's (Teo-tee-hwalkin), Toltecs, Aztecs and European conquistadors have all contributed to the city's evolution. Because of the multitude of ancient ruins, of colonial masterpieces and of modern architecture, Mexico (meh-hee-ko) City is also referred to as "The City of Palaces".
We located a taxi driver, Ricardo, that lived near our RV Park and had him drop us off in the city and pick us up later that day. We walked from the Palacio Nacional to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, took the Metro (subway) to Chapultepec (Cha-pull-tay-peck) Park (a 551 acre park dedicated in the 15th Century by the Aztec ruler Netzahualcoyotl), and just wandered the streets.
We spent most of our time being awed by the historical artifacts displayed in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. It is a extraordinary museum of artifacts representing the varied history of Mexico. As an added attraction, we were further enthused by watching hundreds of students completing a homework task that was in preparation for upcoming and very important tests. They were intensely studying every exhibit and seemingly enjoying their efforts. This definitely piqued our interest even further.
We also indulged in a tour during our stay near Mexico City. We visited the Pyramids of San Juan Teotihuacán and the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. It took a day after visiting these places for the awesomeness to really sink in to our psyche.
The former city around the Piramides de Teotihuacán was the epicenter of culture and commerce for ancient Mesoamerica and its 200,000+ inhabitants disappeared without a trace. Scholars suspect that the society exhausted their resources and left, but to where and exactly when, there is only speculation.
Occupation of the area started around 500 BC and the pyramids were constructed around 100 BC. Teotihuacán's rise coincided with the classical Romans' building of their great monuments and the pyramids and palaces encompassed nearly 12 square miles.
After the Teotihuacán's came the Toltecs and the Aztecs, both fascinated with the ruins of Teotihuacán. Because of this fascination, both cultures adopted many of the ancient symbols and motifs and incorporated them into their own beliefs. As you probably know, this evolving history was abruptly halted with the arrival of the Spaniards and the dominance of the native culture through the use of Christianity.
We hiked up the various pyramids as well as nosed into several "rooms" that contained remnants of beautifully colored "frescos". To think that their art has withstood the elements for over 1,000 years is amazing enough; however, to think that the art has also endured through various occupations and other destructive forces within the city (fire, vandalism, rebuilding, etc.), makes one wonder how advanced were these people and how their knowledge did not seem to percolate up somewhere else?
The frescos were made by layering thick plaster or stucco over the stone walls and then painting or coloring the surface. The remnants you see in the pictures are what was left of the finished surface and has been kept in its original discovered condition. Fill in the gaps in the picture and you can see the exceptional detail and witness this culture possibly being on the brink of the written language.
Hiking up the Piramide del Sol and the Piramide de la Luna was a breathtaking experience, and I am referring to more than the view. These structures are extremely steep, yet still in tremendously good condition. The pictures explain that which I cannot.
We had a great time with our tour-mates and Gerson shared a little local brew (ie: tequila) with Pia, Bo (Mr. How Much?), Roland and Ricardo. Pia, Bo and Roland are from Sweden (Pia was raised in Panama) and Ricardo is from Argentina. There were also two Italians on board, Mauricio and Lorena, that were happy that Gerson could speak Italian. As we parted at the various hotels, we were most sorry to see the wonderful Swedes go and I think we have a future rendezvous in Germany for the FIFA World Cup, 2006.
The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe is located on the site where, on December 9, 1531, a poor Indian named Juan Diego is reputed to have seen a vision of a beautiful lady in a blue mantle. The local Bishop, Zumarraga, was reluctant to confirm that Juan had indeed seen the Virgin Mary, so he asked the peasant for some evidence. On December 12, Juan saw the vision a second time and when he asked her for proof, she instructed him to collect the roses that began blooming in the rocky soil at Juan Diego's feet. He gathered the flowers in his cloak and returned to the bishop. When he unfurled his cloak, the flowers dropped to the ground and the image of the Virgin was miraculously emblazoned on the rough-hewn cloth. The bishop immediately ordered the building of a church on the spot, and upon its completion, the cloth with Mary's image was hung in a place of honor, framed in gold. Since that time, millions of the devout and the curious have come to view the image. The blue-mantled Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico.