The first day of the tour we went to the two pyramids of the Sun and the Moon at Teotihuacán, the first city established in the Americas and the beginning of Mexican civilisation, home to 250,000 people back in it's day. The Aztecs rediscovered the ruins and believed the structures lining the Calzada de los Muertos, or Avenue of the Dead, to be tombs, but in fact they were residences of the elite. There were other areas designated to artisans, merchants, and labourers.
My roommate climbing the Temple of the Moon
The pyramids there are the second tallest in the world, after Egypt’s. The Temple of the Sun is 222m by 70 m, with 248 steps, and built in 100 AD from 3 million tonnes of stone, brick, and rubble, without the use of pack animals, metal, or the wheel. So we walked to the top of both of them. They actually don’t know much about the history behind the pyramids so all they could tell us were theories. The entire complex was burnt sometime in the seventh century AD, possibly looted, and then completely abandoned before being rediscovered by the Aztecs.
The Temple of the Sun
They were completely buried over by river soil and vegetation before they were rediscovered again in modern times. The president at the time of the latest rediscovery wanted to get them cleaned up and excavated for the Mexican Centennial celebrations and the archaeologists were falling behind schedule. So he told them, I don’t care what means you use, get those things cleaned in time for the celebrations. So amazingly for archaeologists, they used dynamite and blew up the top part of the temple of the sun. Amazing that people would be so destructive to their own national archaeological treasures. Then they get all annoyed that there are pieces of their history held in museums around the world rather than displayed in Mexico. But what the heck, if they are going to blow up their own stuff and allow the remainder to get stolen by their own citizens for their private collections, then perhaps the French and the Germans ought to look after it for them until they can demonstrate that they are responsible enough to mind them themselves.
On the way to the pyramids we stopped at the cathedral of Guadalupe (where I picked up the annoying habit of saying constantly, wadda, wadda… wadda lupe!!), built on the site where the peasant Juan Diego had a vision of the virgin on Dec 9th, 1531. The church wasn’t particularly interesting to me, I don’t like Mexican churches, they all look tacky and cheap (the new thing is neon signs on the altar). It’s amazing how much blood they depict in the images of Jesus, he is dripping with the stuff and it’s all very gory and he looks like a victim of a spectacular axe murder horror flick. Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico and people travel from all over the country to worship at this church. It is specially designed so that the giant cross above the altar extends to a lower level room below the level where the services are held, so that the masses can get as close to the cross as possible without interrupting a service. To maintain the flow of traffic they have installed a moving sidewalk to take the pilgrims across the foot of the cross and then another moving sidewalk back again, so they can do two laps and get funnelled back out again. The person designing the walkway asked the architect how long and fast the walkway should run, and he said, enough so that a person can do one Hail Mary each way. Never seen anything like it.
We passed by Tlatelolco, where around 400 students were massacred by police during a student demonstration just before the Olympics held in Mexico City in 1968. Not only did they fire onto the unarmed students in the plaza, they also took up positions in the surrounding buildings and sniped down onto them, chasing the students into nearby dormitory buildings to hunt down the fleeing ones and shoot them in their rooms. We asked if anyone boycotted the Olympics because of this, but the local guide didn’t know, he probably wasn’t even born then.