Travel: Exploring Teotihuacan’s ancient ruins
Vail CO, Colorado
My initial reason to head south into Mexico was to climb a pair of volcanos. Considering my group’s original intentions, in which we were successful on both peaks, the climbing portion of our trip did not disappoint. However, in addition to climbing, I had almost forgotten about a side trip that we were scheduled to do: A day trip to the ancient city of Teotihuacan, a place that morphed from a footnote into an outright chapter of a recent 10-day vacation.
If you can tear yourself away from the magnetisms of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, a 90-minute drive north of Mexico City will bring you to Teotihuacan, Mexico’s most visited archeological site, the third largest pyramid in the world and the temple of Quetzalcoatl (plumed serpent).
At its peak, Teotihuacan boasted a population of roughly 200,000 inhabitants from 400 to 650 A.D. Unlike many of its contempories throughout Mexico and Mesoamerica, these Elysian times saw no warfare or ritualistic sacrifice that many of us now equate with the region due to the bloodthirsty Aztec and Mayan. Most of what is known about this enigmatic city and its original population comes from educated guesswork and deducing what the Aztecs left behind when they came upon the ruins in 675-680 A.D. In fact, Teotihuacan is an Aztec word meaning, “The place where men become Gods” and it was they who (wrongly) named the central causeway, Calle de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead) in thinking that the many platforms and mini-pyramids that line both sides were burial chambers.
Indeed, to this day, the engineers of Teotihuacan, which dates back to 150BC, are still ghostly and unknown.
Walking down the Avenue of the Dead, I was quite literally overcome with a quiet but powerful reserve, a feeling of awe. The feelings I encountered were of insignificance, mystery and at times, borderline xenophobia.
Staring at (intently) and studying the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, taking in the full extent of all the carvings and serpent heads, it was easy on a beginners level to imagine what stepping into Indiana Jones’ shoes must be like.
Until one climbs all 225 feet of the Pyramid of the Sun, the scope of this mystical and cryptic place isn’t fully realized. The impression is hammered home even more so from atop The Pyramid of the Moon as it occupies the end of the avenue. From this vantage, the bulk of the city is splayed out before you.
For a few hours while I walked through Teotihuacan, the strongly spiritual demeanor of the place usurped all the negative feelings I held previously from witnessing the rampant poverty and absolutely magnificent overcrowding of what is Mexico City and its environs.
Certainly Mexico has its glorious beaches and seaside communities, something that no one will argue with.
However, after 10 days in Mexico that included stays in Puebla, Mexico City, Tlachichuca and Acapulco, Teotihuacan remains at the top for reasons to visit.
Kiefer Thomas lives in Lionshead and works at the Starbucks in the Arrabelle resort.