Saturday, March 17, 2018

Pirámides de Teotihuacan, Basilica de Guadeloupe and other stuff, March 17, 2018

I decided to take a tour to see a few places because it just seemed too difficult to go 50 km northeast of the city via public transport.  Our first stop was at Plaza de las Tres Culturas, which is an archaeological site in Mexico City.  During the conquest (1519) the Spaniards convinced some of the Indigenous people that their lives would be much better if they supported Spain - the Aztecs were taxing them too high and life wasn't so rosy.  So that's how the colonists got the locals to work with them and take their own buildings apart to build Catholic churches-

Plaza de las Tres Culturas is also where 400 Mexican university protesters were slaughtered October 2, 1968, just days before the Olympic Games.  According to George, our guide, the world reacted in a sort of ho hum way - they were communists demanding better working and living conditions so.....  The games went ahead as planned and were very successful-

After about an hour's drive in traffic, we came to a tourist trap kind of mall to learn about maguey.  It's a plant that looks a lot like agave-

But in its center it has a liquid that it produces for only 6 months.  It's ladled out twice a day but after the 6 month period, the plant dries up and dies-

The liquid is used to make tequila.  The leaves are peeled and used to make paper-

Fibres are taken from inside the leaves and used to make blankets and tablecloths-

Obsidian is mined nearby and carved into all sorts of knick knacks-

We had a tequila and mezcal tasting.  I really liked Don Leander tequila. It was smooth and didn't burn my insides out.  It cost more than $60 for a 26 ounce bottle-

Our next stop was the main attraction:  Teotihuacan- another archaeological site.  It was built between 200 and 600 AD and then abandoned.  George has done a lot of research and there are 4 ideas as to why so many of these sites are abandoned:  climate change led to famine and/or disease or civil war.  At Teotihuacan, the site used to be very lush - lots of trees and a perfect agricultural area.  But in order to be able to use limestone to add the one foot thick stucco to the outside of all of the buildings, it had to be heated.  They burned trees to do this.  A lack of trees led to erosion and crop failure.  As the people ran out of food, they also contracted diseases.  In order to survive, they may have thought their only alternative was to have a civil war to get rid of the ruling aristocracy because their troubles had to be the rulers fault.  This may explain why only a few years ago 4 bodies belonging to the elite were found in the Moon Temple-

The Sun Temple was finished by 150 AD and is the world's third largest pyramid.  Its base is 222 m on each side and it is 70m high.  3 million tons of stone make it and there are no tunnels inside-

I climbed almost all the 248 steps but we only had 1.5 hours at the site and I wanted to see more.  We spent 25 minutes in the line just waiting to get to the stairs.  The weekend is not an ideal time to visit-

The view from the top is pretty amazing.  The ancient city covered more than 20 square km-

but today you visit only along the Calzada de Los Muertos, the Street of the Dead.  The Aztecs named the buildings and streets because there is nothing known about the civilization that lived here first-

The Calzada de Los Muertos is 2 km long-

and lined with platforms that were probably used for sacrificing-

This painting was discovered in 1963 and is part of the Puma Complex-

More platforms-

Looking down the Street of the Dead from the Moon Temple-

After leaving Teotihuacan, we went for lunch at a buffet - yuck, then back to the city to visit the Basilica de Guadeloupe.  The entrance to the original church has sunk 45 cm because Mexico City is built on a lake.  When you walk in the old Basilica-

 you walk uphill towards the altar.  It was closed for 5 years in the 70s while the city decided what to do about it. People protested in the square and finally it was decided to build a new church.  There were over 200 buildings in the area that were sinking so the city put hydraulics underneath ALL of them to prevent them from sinking any more.  They haven't been moved back to their original positions because they are afraid they will tumble.  

Building the new church took only 2 years-

and holds 3000 people on the main floor-

The altar is enormous-

So is the pipe organ-

It's so big it's hard to see the couple in the bottom left corner getting married.  The priest is standing to the left of the cross in the bottom middle-

There are 4 escalators-

that move behind the altar looking up at the cross on the wall-

It's a huge tourist attraction and I'm surprised they don't charge to go in.  They've also smartened up and moved the candles to the outside, preventing the mess the black smoke creates on the ceiling and walls-

Many people light candles and bring flowers asking for favours and praying for the dead-

On our way home, we were in a minor accident.  We were in the far left lane on a one way street crossing the intersection when a dummy to our right decided to turn left right into us.  Apparently, there is no such thing as driver education or the need for a driver's licence.  After arguing for a few minutes and holding up traffic including a bus in the designated bus lane, the woman took off, just about creaming cars again!  Luckily the damage on the van can be polished out but her car was a bit of a mess.  Even though it was her fault, each driver must pay for their own damage.  No police and no insurance are involved.

I had a good day but it was very tiring.  Our guide talked on and on and on in weird English so that made it hard to concentrate on what he was saying.  Oh well.  Soon I'll be back in the snow!

Tomorrow I'm going on another tour to Xochimilco and other exciting places!

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