Thursday, August 14, 2008

Day 177. La Ciudad de los Palacios

The Mexicas built their capital, Mexico Tenochtitlan, on and around the islet of Lake Texcoco using a combination of floating dirt rafts for cultivation (chinampas) and elevated causeways to communicate with the lake shore. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, remembering his first look of Tenochtitlan in 1519, described it as a city larger and more beautiful than the city of Sevilla. After the Spanish conquest was consolidated in 1521 the Spaniards destroyed Tenochtitlan and built over its ruins Mexico City. For the longest time it was believed that the Spanish cathedral stood over the main Mexica temple, but the excavations made for the Metro in the 1970’s (a fabulous piece of engineering and the best Metro in the world) found the remains of the main temple at one side of the Catedral, and since then several exploration campaigns have uncovered the core of the temple and collected many sculptures and artifacts now housed onsite in another of Mexico’s wonderful museums.

I spent the day looking at the site and the museums, and wandering through the streets of old Mexico. To start with Tenochtitlan, here are pictures of a model of the ceremonial center, and the layered structure of the main temple.

a couple of pictures of the site

and of some of the sculptures housed in the museum (the second one is one of the many representations of Tlaloc, the God of Rain and one of the most important gods of the Mesoamerican pantheon).

One of the most important pieces in the museum, here restored to its original colors, is the monolith that represents the dismembered body of Coyolxauhqui. According to Mexica mythology, this goddess conspired with her 100 brothers against their mother, when she found that she was pregnant. The newborn was Huitzilopochtli, the God of War, who came out of the womb fully grown as a warrior. He killed his 100 brothers, dismembered his treacherous sister, and became the main god of the Mexicas. (The third important god was Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent).

At the end of the 16th century Alexander Von Humboldt visited Mexico City, and enthusiastically dubbed it la Ciudad de los Palacios for its magnificent architecture.

My Mom was worried about my safety while visiting the city, which admittedly is not very safe, but all I found were families having a nice day out in the central park (la Alameda), visiting the Museum of Popular Arts, and overall having a great old time :)

1 comment:

elo said...

It wasn't at the end of the 16th century when Humboldt visited Mexico, it was at the beginning of the 18th century. By the end of the 16th century it was still called Nueva España, the spaniards conquered it in 1521.