After a harrowing and treacherous journey to Mexico City, I awoke in my hotel bed with ambitions to go right the hell back to sleep. No rest for the wicked however as this very well may be my only free day in Mexico City to explore and get my museums per diem worth out of this work trip. The fast and loose plan was to get my ass up to the top of a pyramid come hell or high water (both of those are shitty options though).
But my mind and body were weary from the two days journey previous so the first order of business was to track down a cup of mud. Which I did in short order and with several attempts at explaining what a hammerhead is to a Spanish speaking barista. Once that was “solved” and I got some watery gloopy caffeine drink stuffs, I began to actually look at where I was.
My hotel was direct next to the Plaza del la Constitución which is a massive square surrounded by unbelievably beautiful buildings. In the center of the square was one of the most impressively large flags I’ve ever seen. I took this short video to give you the scenery and sounds so that we are both on the same page. The Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral provides the backdrop.
I kinda wish that video was a little longer, but you get the idea. It was at this moment when it all began to hit me. I was in Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world.
With a new found energy, I rushed back to the hotel to meet my boss for a hugely sub-par complimentary breakfast. Hooray? We made a plan to contact the front desk and figure out the best way to get to Teotihuacan to see some pyramids. They saw us coming a mile away. Stupid gringos to be placed on a tour van for 10 hours and driven all over Mexico City visiting many glorious sights and even more glorious gift shops by a driver with greased palms and a sketchy motive. In hindsight, we should’ve just taken the bus.
The first stop was at a gift shop near the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) to buy religious relics so we can be ready to get blessed by a priest that splashed holy water to people rolling through in mass hoards like so many cattle. People that have been travelling for weeks and months from all over the country on foot in a mass pilgrimage. It was quite a sight to behold. When we finally got out of the gift shop of course.
To see the holy shroud that was perched up really high on the interior one must traverse on a conveyor belt to keep the herd moving. I won’t get into the back story as you have The Interwebs and can look into religious matters on a different The Interweb site. Not here man. But…the architecture was breathtaking and the story is an interesting one. One that my father would’ve been so excited to witness.
There’s actually four churches on this site. The tiny one up on the hill is the original site where the virgin Mary appeared to…oh damn, I almost told the tale. Look it up. The one to the right came next followed my the very ornate basilica to the left. What I’ve avoided photographing all together was the massive eyesore further to the left. A monstrous example of architecture gone awry that shall not grace the electric pages of Mind Your Dirt anytime soon.
If you ever visit, use the restrooms elsewhere as it costs a few pesos to use the ones on site. Toilet paper costs extra. Yeah, it’s like that.
We were loaded back onto the van to be shipped off to another gift shop near Teotihuacan. Quite the sales pitch going on there indeed! I’ll spare you the details as my interests were still very much on the Pyramid of the Sun which I could see from the front stoop of the gift shop.
When we finally entered Teotihuacan through the gauntlet of trinket-laden salesmen and first came upon the Pyramid of the Moon I was awe struck.
The Pyramid of the Moon is the smaller of the two, but boasts 13 temples in front of it’s Southern face. Each temple represents one of the 13 annual full moons.
Here’s a map to get you acquainted with this ancient site.
Teotihuacan was originally settled around 400 BC but it wasn’t until 200 BC that it grew into the city that’s there today. In 200 BC the city exploded with the arrival of refugees from Cuicuilco, a city destroyed by volcanic activity. It then became one of the largest cities in the world. Also of note, Teotihuacan is also the first place where Quetzalcoatl (The feathered serpent god) was worshiped.
I couldn’t wait to set foot on my very first pyramid. When humans put this much energy into a spiritual site, it leaves a tangible and lasting echo of that energy. A vibe that I can truly get into provided I’m sleepy enough or drunk enough. The former being the case on this adventure.
The pyramid and temples were surprisingly simple when you’re up close. Just some volcanic rock and mortar which left me with the feeling that these were much easier to build than the limestone pyramids of Giza. Not to sell the Aztec short, they did the best with what materials they had. That said, I immediately felt like I can build one in my backyard over a nice three-day weekend.
Okay, maybe a four-day weekend…
Regardless, it was now time to step up to the altar for my first human sacrifice. My boss was going to be so surprised!!
As it turns out, my boss was not the buxom vestal virgin I thought him to be and the gods refused my sacrifice. Oh well, another year of fallow crops and plagues I guess. My obsidian dagger will have to remain dry a little longer.
To the right of this altar is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god. Teotihuacan is the first place where this god was worshiped and Q-dog was kinda a big deal and really spread in Mesoamerica the lateclassic period (600-900 AD) because he was so pretty yet so macho.
This is one of the most ornate sites in Teotihuacan but also serves another function that totally blew my mind. As the son of an astronomer, I was fascinated to learn that this temple was actually an ancient observatory! The central area was filled with water and at night you can look down into this shallow pool in order to see the heavens above. Genius concept and such a relief for strained necks!
And the big guy himself, Quetzalcoatl…
One of the features that the Aztec left out was the great Port-A-Potty of the Dead. And, oh man, did I have to go. Those two coffees and two beers for breakfast were begging to be released. Being on such a sacred site, I didn’t dare to sneak behind a temple and relieve myself in such an unceremonious manner! So I hiked quite a ways away from the site to get some much needed relief. Wait, did you need to know that? Never mind. On to the Pyramid of the Sun!
This is one of the largest structures of its type in the Western hemisphere and I was damned and determine to make it to the top. No small feat, but I didn’t come all this way just to sacrifice my boss and make an offering to the Port-A-Potty of the Dead. Every journey begins with the first step. And then the 248th step.
GULP! Nothing to it but to do it. I kept my head low as these steps were steep as all hell and trudged along. I focused my energy to ascend with reverence and peace. It worked! I felt energized with every step and proceeded to the top passing wheezing and sweating non-smoking tourists with great ease and comfort. It was meant to be a spiritual journey for me so I was able to ignore the burning in my thighs. Once at the top, the view was breathtaking.
And this is only the Northern half of the great city. Simply amazing! It’s places like this that makes you wish you could be the only one there to truly appreciate its grandeur. Were that the case, I would’ve sat crossed-legged at the apex and meditated for hours. As it was, and often is, too many tourists snapping selfies and the murmur of humans was too much for too many inner journeys so I began my descent.
I began reflecting on what kind of world this was before the Spanish began their disease-spreading and gold-mongering. I imagined a world bereft of European conquest. I imagined Teotihuacan untouched and bustling with life. We humans can be very shitty and selfish at times.
The next day it was time to get back to work again. For the next week, I’d be working with the crew at the Palacio de Bellas Artes getting The Art of Music installed and ready for their opening.
John and I were ready to get cracking and were not taking any prisoners.
Did I mention that this building is amazing? So impressive, even if it is slowly sinking into the earth.
And on the top floor is a collection of amazing murals by artists like Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros. Here’s more info on the murals. I took a bunch of detail shots of some of my favorites. This is also a “Where’s Waldo” montage, so see if you can find your humble traveler in this mix.
The installation itself went pretty smoothly. The Palacio de Bellas Artes’ marketing team put together this video which compresses the week’s work into a short film. So, that said, here’s what we did.
Some truly impressive flashlight holding work isn’t it? I really had a great time meeting and working with the crew and despite the language barrier, we all became fast friends.
I, of course, shamelessly promoted Mind Your Dirt so hopefully some of the crew is reading this now. If so, buenas tardes mis amigos!
Mexico City is such an amazing place for the fan of architecture and sculpture. In order to try to keep this post from going on forever (I’ve already lost you haven’t I?), I’ll make a nice little gallery of some of the architectural and sculptural elements I found pleasing. This is, however, just the tip of the iceberg.
Oh, and there were these guys…
And, unfortunately, this guy…
And it’s on this note that I’ll leave you. Just be thankful I didn’t post the front view version of that last video. It’s like he was trying to smuggle grapes over the border. What’s the male version of camel toe? Yeah, that. *shudders*
So sorry about the long post that’s not about urban farming. I do reserve the right to go off script now and again. You’re not the boss of me! Are you?