Diary/Photo Journal

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.

Each pyramid is where
the Mayans reached:
From the Pacific on the
right, to the Yucatan,
Belize and Guatemala
from the left around the
top of the picture

Catedral Metropolitana
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Palacio Nacional (where the
gov't works, similar to the
U.S. Congress building)

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?

Palacio Tepantitla one of the many palaces
around the pyramids.  They had a sophisticated
drainage system built under the floors - the water
ran down over special sloped patios and into drain
troughs that ran the water through "rock" drains and
away from the palace.  Much like our "french drain"
system we use now (and this was 1000 years ago!)

The frescos.  Red "paint"
was the most popular color,
but look at this detail!  You
see the faces, fingernails,
head dresses, etc.  The last
fresco is called
"The Five Priests"

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.

1) Palacio Tepantitla fresco - they played a form of soccer even then!
2) Fresco and underlying wall - note how they placed small stones in the mortar
for reinforcement - this construction is seen all over Mexico
3) Ceilings were wood poles embedded in stone, mud and plaster
4) Floor of plaza - layered in plaster/stucco and painted red (as were the walls)

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. 

Piramide de la Luna
see Gerson at top right
Gerson climbing the
steep stairway

Piramide de la Luna
Views of the
Avenue of the Dead
Calle de los Muertos
Piramide del Sol is
on left of the Calle


1) View from Calle de
los Muertos
to Piramide de la Luna
2) Just a tad steep
3) Piramide de la Luna
drainage system
4) Louise on Piramide
del Sol looking out to
Piramide de la Luna

Piramide del Sol -
3rd largest pyramid in
the world (2nd is Cheops/Egypt and 1st is Cholula/Mexico)
steep, steep, steep
first rock climbing wall!


View down
the Piramide
del Sol
in front of the
Patio de los
Patio de los Jaguares intricate
carvings yet there are only two
main themes.  Owls on the pillars
facing north and south and Parrots(?)
on the pillars facing west and east


Snake built into
wall - look closely
and you can see the
tongue, nose and


Patio de los Jaguares
Jaguars were revered as Gods
Also, mountain lions or Pumas
were included in the frescos

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.

Bo, Pia, Roland,
Ricardo and Gerson
trying the local brew.

Three stooges, need
I say more!
The Virgin of Guadalupe
This is said to be the original
cloak worn by the Juan Diego
in 1531.  See story below.

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.

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