From Teotihuacan to La Villa: an appointment with deities and goddesses.

November 2015

Find out more about Teotihuacan as well as the Basílica of Guadalupe at La Villa.

The encounter with the divinity and its different faces, either in representations of jaguars, snakes or in the Virgin of Guadalupe, is also expressed in a journey that, from beginning to end, not disdain surprises and interesting meetings: archaeological, artisanship, culinary and even in weather.

To arrive at what it was-the largest city in Mesoamerica-located in the limits of the State of Mexico and almost 50 kilometers from the Mexican Federal District, we took the Mexico -Pachuca road, followed by a unique urban complex. Thus, far from being intimidated by the traffic of the area or the harbinger of the unexpected blessing of Tlaloc1, Ivan, our guide, illustrated us with curious references about the landscape.

Without realizing, we reached the Valley of Teotihuacan, or -The city where men become gods,-the Nahuatl name given by Aztecs and Mexicas. Immediately, we saw the long Avenue of the Dead, a shaft of more than 3 kilometers long, where the most representative buildings are erected. Among them: the Pyramid of the Moon in the northbound; in the eastward, the temple of the Sun, of 225 meters per side and an impressive height of 63 meters; and in the south, the Citadel, with the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.

To give us an idea of what was Teotihuacan, INAH2 reports that its first residents, still unknown, arrived nearly 2,400 years ago and during its heyday, between the years 450 to 650 AD, housed an estimated of 175,000 inhabitants distributed in 23 km2. In its decline, and for the years 700-750 AD, the Aztecs and Mexicas discovered the abandoned city and, astonished, reoccupied the area.

To continue the theme of its development, Ivan indicates that the surfaces of many of the buildings were constantly renewed, since the originals were mainly done by adobe and, gradually, coated with stucco and stone.

Once at the Citadel, a square of 225 meters on each side, curiously the same perimeter of the Pyramid of the Sun, we walked to the temple of Quetzalcoatl, also known as the Plumed Serpent. Its design, says Ivan, exemplifies the great architectural symbol of Teotihuacan, known as board-slope, that indicates a building technique of consecutive platforms on sloping walls.

These slopes hold splendid bodies of snakes, which have heads that seems to be from jaguars. So, they are floating between shells and snails that, according with some beliefs, recreates the myth of the creation of time, where the god Quetzalcoatl prescribes the actions of man, allows profits and creates the calendrical organization.

Mezcal and some other pleasures to gather strength.

Before climbing the colossal pyramids of the Sun and Moon, we returned to the tour van to taste some good mezcal, pulque and tequila, besides enjoying the beautiful artisanship in obsidian and silver processed by an interesting cooperative store, formed by 58 families of the region.

One of its traders show us the multiple benefits of the maguey, explaining how their fibers, called ixtles, were used by the ancients to make textiles or ropes capable of carry tons of stones destined to shape their temples. In this same plant they obtained mixiote, which was used either as a paper or to prepare a delicious dish that receives the same name.

Once the heart of this plant is removed, at its eight years of ripening, it produces the famous mead. Ancient cultures, according to the artisan, used to pour this liquid in a wooden barrel. Just when it is fully fermented, it reaches 4 degrees of alcohol and we have pulque. Is also acquired from its core a needle, mostly used to weave or cure, because it contains a substance with healing properties.

Natural dyes had a central role in the manufacturing of clothes or Prehispanic paintings. So, with plants such as geranium or Chicalote, the trader surprises us with an interesting show of their colors. As a way to keep these rich traditions, even with all the challenges along the new technologies, many artisans rescue the quality of their work by using constantly fibers and natural dyes.

Stone on stone

No less important was the obsidian or volcanic lava petrified during the pre-Hispanic period, which was used to develop tools and ornamental objects, like knives and masks. Without the presence of metals, such element was used to trade, build or revere their beliefs. In Teotihuacan, particularly, this monolith has 5 different colors, says the craftsman, and its production was and is the economic base of the region.

It should be noted that the cooperative also works Silver with .925, which means that has copper. From polishing to melt, particularly they work Aztec designs and their specialty is the boled silver, which includes hundreds of pieces to produce sumptuous necklaces, bracelets and earrings. So, after this happy intermission, we are ready for the pyramids and the god of rain.

Get to the top and keep climbing Drenched in vitality, we are in the complex of Quetzapapálotl, which is thought it was a residential area for the elite of Tenochtitlan. Due to its carved columns, which frame the courtyard and represent quetzales to owls, it receives the name of-sacred butterfly-.

Its reconstruction, dating back to the early 60's, was under the direction of archaeologist Jorge Acosta. It is believed, by the pottery found at the site, that it was built between the period 450- 650 AD.

It is also in adjacent rooms where we located remains of mural painting with representations of jaguars, which hold rows seashells and blow snails. With their plumes, such felines are framed with symbols alluding to the god of water, Tlaloc. Hence, this site, close to the Square Pyramid of the Moon, receives the name of-Palace of Jaguars-.

It is in the second largest pyramid of Teotihuacan, the Temple of the Moon, where we get the best view of the completely architectural complex of Teotihuacan, whose construction is a process divided into several stages between the years 100 AD to 600 -650 AD

Now, we are located between the foothills of the pyramid of the moon and sun, and Ivan tells us that the surrounding hills are mysteriously mimicked by both monuments. Very surprised, we climb the 238 steps up the Monument of Sun, whose construction dates back to the years 1-150 AD. We have to remember that the Aztecs found it many centuries later, so the causes that led to its construction are still under investigation.

Once on top of the Sun, as a reward, we get a rich perspective of the whole Valley, which is surrounded by the Cerro Gordo at the north and the Sierra del Patlachique at south. From this point, it is very well seen not only the Temple of the Moon, but also large sections of cactus and pepper trees.

Later, we jump to one of the local restaurants where you can enjoy the most typical dishes of the country, which are offered either as a buffet style or a la carte. We are already satisfied and approaching our final stop, the Basilica of Guadalupe, one of the most emblematic and visited shrines in Mexico, due to its history and architecture.

Heading for the brunnete goddess

In Mexico, the Catholic faith has deep cultural roots since the colonial era (1521-1810), and devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the most revered in the country, started in 1531.

In that year, the tradition tells that an Indian, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, saw the Virgin on Tepeyac Hill, located in what is now the northern part of Mexico City. She instructed him to visit the bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, in order to erect a temple.

Given the skepticism of the priest, Juan Diego received more appearances and, in one of them, she asked him to repeat the task, but this time he would carry some roses. Wrapped in his cloak, the indian discovered them to the priest and, for the surprise of both, the image of the Virgin miraculously materialized in the robe.

Thus, the first temple in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe, as she would be called later, did not wait too long and was built in what is now the neighborhood of the Villa. Here we find a set of churches and monuments located on the slopes of the Tepeyac Hill, among them: The Indian Chapel, Capilla del Cerrito, the Convent of the Capuchins, the expiatory Temple of Christ the King (The Old Basilica of Guadalupe) and the new Basilica of Guadalupe, which today preserves the famous image.

The latter church, built in 1974, was planned for the millions of faithful that the Virgin receives each year, as it has several accesses and allows better appreciation of her.

Although some historians conceived her as an instrument of evangelization, evidently, the faith that she aroused is the motor of the most impressive pilgrimages, especially, on December 12, her commemoration day.

And so it ends our heavenly trip, that has allowed us to learn in one day the most illustrative faces of the gods, in settings ranging from monumental pre-Hispanic ruins to the most representative colonial church in Mexico. Undoubtedly, an excellent opportunity to explore interesting heritages and cultural arrangements in our country. We invite you, without further preambles, to enjoy this experience with Wayak,


Written by Iraíz Chilanga.


1 Alluded to the god of lightning, rain and earthquakes

2 The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH)





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