We were up and on the coach by 8.00. We were heading for the pyramids but first we set off through a park which was the site of many killings during the time of the Inquisition. The spaniards gave the indigenous people the option of Catholicism or death. Cortes saw the human sacrifice of the old religions as ‘barbaric’. Apparently putting people to death because they would not adopt Catholicism was ‘ death for a reason is different …… it is a very fine line.
Our first stop was at the square dedicated to Saint Mary of Guadalupe, a much revered saint for Mexicans. The square hosts several churches but is dominated by a new Cathedral built again by Pedro Ramirez and is notable for its round shape. The older churches on the square showed considerable evidence of the sinking that is taking place all over the City. Although we were there early a mass was already in full swing and could be clearly heard due to the very open aspect of the Cathedral.
St Mary of Guadalupe’s claim to fame was that she appeared to a native man who had converted to Catholicism. After several abortive attempts to persuade the powers that be to accept the his story that he had been blessed with a vision, her image appeared on his cape. The cape convinced the bishop and now has pride of place in the very modern Cathedral and can be seen behind the altar by the slightly bizarre device of four travelling walkways constantly moving below the cape which is housed in an ornate gold frame. There is a similar arrangement that allows you to see the crown jewels in the Tower of London, but it seemed somehow incongruous to form part of a religious experience. Interesting stuff.
It was now time for the Pyramids of Teotihuacan. To reach the site we left the City, passing as we did so the vast suburban sprawl of the homes of people who have left the rural areas to find work in the City. These rise up the steep sides of the valley in which Mexico City sits. They are very colourful and until recently had no running water, electricity or sanitation. They. still have no transport and anyone living there has to travel on foot down to the road that runs along the bottom of the hills.
Having left the City behind it did not take long to get to the Teotihuacan site. Now surrounded by gardens of cactus, in its day it was thought to house 175,000 people. No one knows why it was abandon but it was a thriving community from 409 bc to 200 ad. The main area comprises two huge pyramids. One dedicated to the moon and the larger one (the third largest pyramid in the world) dedicated to the sun. The moon pyramid sits at the end of the site, with the sun off to the left. Joining the two sites is a broad road with the remnants of buildings on ether side. When in full operation it must have been amazing place.
The first area we visited was inside one of the buildings where there were some original wall paintings. The first were a terracotta red. Apparently this was a colour frequently used by the Mexicas. It represented the human sacrifices. The colour was generated by squahing the cochineal grub. It was amazing to see wall paintings so well preserved rom this age. The next room was perhaps even more remarkable as it depicted an exotic bird still with its multi colour plumage.
We then moved outside to the main thoroughfare running between the two temples and beyond. Hawkers plied their wares but no-one was hectoring or aggressive. One elderly chap demonstrated quite graphically the crushing of the cochineal grub to make th rich red dye and showed how local plants generated some of the other colours. His stall displayed a number of items made from obsidian a shiny black rock apparently emanating from lava, heavily polished. It was the source of sharp knives and daggers in ancient times, as well as jugs, containers and beads. Topically it was moulded into very shiny skulls on the stall to assist in the Celebration of the Dead.
Next stop was the Moon Pyramid. This sits at the end of the long road. It is possible to climb the steep face. For me the steps were a bit of a stretch but I made it to the first platform which is as far as you can go at the moment. It was worth the climb as from the top you had a fine view of the whole site. The Moon Pyramid is thought to have been the location for the human sacrifice ritual. I found myself wondering what they did with the rest of the dead bodies if they were only really interested in the hearts. Tidily I think we heard that some of the indigenous people did eat human meat…..
Having descended the Moon Pyramid, we headed off to the much larger Sun Pyramid. It was great to walk down this ancient avenue as the people who lived there must have done all those years ago. Monica gamefully joined me for this climb. She is certainly one determined lady as it was quite a challenge, even though the steps were somewhat shallower. Added to the experience was the fact that the day was really heating up. Nevertheless we set out, taking it in stages. Monica climbed probably 2/3rds which was worthwhile given the incredible view. I have continued to the top which was something of a puff but satisfying, if a little dangerous as the final few feet was just walking over a rocky outcrop. Some of the others in the group were up there and it was good to share the satisfaction of completing the feat and feasting our eyes on the view.
Descending was equally precarious due to steep the gradient and the uneven nature of the aged steps. I am pleased to report that we made it and smugly walked back to our coach. A very successful and interesting morning! We lunched in an excellent cafe where a rather discordant trio serenaded us and we ate guacamole with the Sun Pyramid on the horizon and the tiny outline of climbers on the top. The sun shone from a cloudless sky.
We returned to the City and M and I set out for a walk. We passed the macabre Celebration of the Dead statues along the road by the side of the park.
They were fascinating. We reached the stunning Opera House, very much reflecting the Francophile taste of a past president. Made of Carrera marble it is beautiful inside and out.
Regrettably we were unable to see a rather contentious Diego Rivera painting as the upper area was closed, but what we saw was interesting. We wondered on and identified the blue tiled building recommended for supper. We also successfully found the post office and purchased some very underwhelming stamps (the pretty ones weren’t available!) and wandered home.
You will be pleased to hear that my supper was somewhat more substantial than previously and the setting was a richly ornamented building, complete with chandeliers and stuccoed ceiling. It was very grand and a stark contrast to the cafe of the previous evening.
Home to pack, we move on tomorrow. I had something of a technical hitch as my contact lens flicked out and was lost down a drain in the bathroom. Bother(!*?#).