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  • Day3

    Mexicas not Aztecs!

    February 25, 2018 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Today was the first day proper of our tour and learnt two very important things straight of the bay. Firstly, the original name of Mexico City was Mexico Tenochtitlan in the Nauhatl language (pronounced Mesheeco Tenochticlan). It is built on a lake and was founded there by the indigenous Mexica people when they saw an eagle standing on a cactus with a serpent in its mouth. They took this as a sign from their head god Quetzalcoatl that this was where it should be. I say Mexica people not Aztecs as they no longer use the term Aztec. It was coined as previously they believed that the indigenous people came from Aztlán in the North West of the country but this has since been disproved. Therefore, Mexicas not Aztecs from now on.

    After a short walk through the local district, we arrived at the Centro Historico and the centre of that, the Zocalo or main square. The first and most important thing to note that this square was the centre of Mexico Tenochtitlan and everything built upon it now is on the ruins of the original city, which was destroyed following the conclusion of the Spanish Conquest in 1521.

    The first building we came across was the Metropolitan Cathedral. An impressive looking building built in two main sections from 1573 to 1813, it was built on the ruins of the first Church erected soon after the destruction of the Mexica city.

    Next was the Palacio Nacional, the home but not residence of the Mexican President. After negotiating the tight security due to the his huge unpopularity, we entered. A grand building yes but relatively unremarkable apart from one thing - the 10 Diego River Murals painted on the 1st Floor of its inner court. The plan was for Rivera to cover the walls with murals but he only completed the 10 due to other work commitments and his failing health. Nevertheless, the work is outstanding showing scenes from indigenous Mexican life whilst taking broad potshots at the rich, the clergy and the Conquistadors. The most remarkable is the biggestslam, which covers the whole wall of the staircase and is titled, 'Mexico Through The Ages.' It depicts major figures and events from Mexican history with an almost satirical eye and a Marxist viewpoint, as Rivera was an avowed communist. Our guide, Anna, said it would take almost a day to describe all the people and events depicted on it, such is its scale, but she did a fine job in 20 mins.

    Apart from a brief viewing of the Cathedral, where I was of the opinion that you've seen one church, you've seen most of them, our final place to visit in the Zocalo was the Templo Mayor, the ruined remains of the first Mexica pyramid and square, which survived Cortes' destruction. This was a place used for veneration of the gods, particularly Quetzalcoatl, and where human sacrifices were made to their honour. We didn't have time to view the whole site and museum but the impressive architecture was all there to see and the spent statues (in the 3rd picture) still had some of their original colouration.

    The reason for the lack of time was that we had a date at Mexico City's number 1 tourist attraction, the National Museum of Anthropolgy. Following an amusing ride on the city's public transport system, both bus and metro, we reached the hall detailing the pre-historic (not as in dinosaurs) and classic proofs of Mexican history. There we learnt about all the archealogical sites, the range of people living at them (which included Mexicas, Zapotecs, Toltecs, Teotihuacans and Mayans) and their customs. The vast majority of them practiced human sacrifice and it was considered the highest honour to be sacrificed and your heart offered to the gods. One way of deciding this was a ball game played on a specially designed court where it was the winners not losers who would be the offering - suffice to say Arsenal have no worries about losing their hearts!

    We also witnessed a very famous ancient stone that was once known as the Aztec Calendar and was used very recently by some nutso group to predict the apocalypse was going to happen in 2012. In fact, it was nothing of the sort and has been given its proper name now, The Stone of the Sun. It tells the story of how our current sun is the 5th one to have existed, how sacrifice should be made to it and other references to gods. It does have calendar elements but that was not it's main function. It's an impressive piece of work and I felt very privileged to have seen the original.

    Our tour ended there and we headed back to the centre for a meal back at the tacqueria we had visited the day before, as it is Anna's favourite. As we had such a good meal the night before, Nigel and I certainly weren't complaining.

    Full, tired, replete with our first encounters with Mexican history but happy, we retired early so we could face our trip to the Pyramids of Teotihuacán tomorrow with gusto.
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