Monday, January 16, 2012

Teotihuacan: the first ruins

The Pyramid of the Moon, and my best friends. Also, looking from the Pyramid of
the Moon towards the avenue of the Dead, and the Sun pyramid.
When you've reached Mexico byway of the unbeaten path, you quickly discover it is a rock garden of stone cities and prolific culture, where the study of Anthropology never quiets and dies. When you stand atop an ancient pyramid, the second-largest in the Americas, and look out over a city of stone and squares, it is hard not to feel infinitesimal. You are hit with a wave of irrelevancy about your own existence as you walk on the cobbled roadway built by age-old civilizations. And as you climb the steps of your first pyramid - steps twice the height to which you would normally climb - you can no longer claim ignorance to the magnificent formations that man has created.

Atop the pyramid looking towards
the Moon pyramid, and Ben and I in a square.
This is how it felt to climb the Pyramid of the Moon, the Pyramid of the Sun, and walk the Avenue of the Dead in the ancient Aztec city of Teotihuacan. This was our first encounter with ruins during our Central America trip. Canada is so young and so void of archeological riches that to walk onto land that trembles with stories was like being a child again and walking into your neighbourhood candy shop for the first time. You sit on top of the first pyramid, just like you would stand in the doorway and gaze at the colorful candies, and look out at something that you think you understand - that once there was a king who ruled a land and men built this city for him - and then you realize you know nothing at all.

Renee and I with Pyramid of the Sun.
On the second day of our three month backpacking trip, we hopped on a bus with our friends Renee, Chrissy and Said, and went to Teotihuacan. The vastness of the Pyramid of the Sun could be seen even as we drove in via taxi to the park entrance. It towers above the rest and dominates the skyline like a protruding mountain, except this mountain is constructed of thousands of volcanic rocks and there is a set of stairs leading to the so-called "summit." The pyramid stands 71.2 metres tall, with a base perimetre of 894 metres. Archeologists have concluded that the pyramid was constructed beginning in 100 A.D. This is further back than even myself can comprehend.

With the possibility to hold more than 200,000 inhabitants, it could have been one of the largest cities in the pre-Columbian Americas. Still, there is no evidence that solidifies which ethnicity actually lived here - the Aztecs gave the present-day names to the site, but there are a number of ethnic groups that the city could have belonged to.
Common themes in Teotihuacan of rich kings surrounded by slaves. 
All of this aside, as we ventured through the city on a hot Sunday afternoon, I carried with me a smile that I could not escape. Even as ambulantes (people trying to sell you artifacts, jewelry and other items) bombarded you with their colourful obsidian knives and sparkling silver earrings, I felt immersed in a culture I had no idea existed. To even bear witness to a small part of Mexican history, to see for myself the stacked stones and to hear the tales of sacrificial lives for the good of a king, it was unlike anything I have ever experienced.

The best part is, this was just the beginning.

You know you're in Mexico when: On our bus ride back from Teotihuacan, we were stopped by police who asked all of the men to step off the bus. Not wanting Ben to get off, I told him to stay. A woman behind us said, "He has to go. They are looking for guns." I watched out the window as Ben was told to lean against the bus with his legs and arms apart, and then as a cop patted him down. Alas, no guns.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving a comment!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...