Life + Arts

Students visit ruins, temples in Mexico

Forget about the drug war for a minute. Now, imagine yourself in one of the biggest cities in the world. A city where its history dates back to the 1300s, yet its modern architecture makes it a diverse city.

Twelve UH students, including myself, went to Mexico City during spring break to visit and do research. As part of a class that studies this city’s history, we traveled with two professors to see the exiting life that the megalopolis has to offer.

We begin by going back to the 1300s, when the Aztecs began to settle in this area, known as Tenochtitlán. Since we stayed in the heart of the city, the Zócalo, we walk down the street to see Templo Mayor, the area that has been uncovered where the ruins from the ancient city stand. It’s hard to imagine that the Spaniards destroyed everything in 1521 and built Mexico City on top of the remains of the temples that the Aztecs built. As we see what’s uncovered in Templo Mayor, we transport ourselves back to the 1300s and imagine how life was during those times.

Our tour guide, Virginia Armella, a recognized historian in Mexico City, explains the meaning of the temples and the way that the Aztecs lived their lives. We see the colorful murals that they painted, the carvings that they sculpted and the tools that they used to hunt; all made from stone.

As we get in the museum of Templo Mayor, we saw how trading worked with the Aztecs. There are many kinds of stones and conch shells that were not available in Tenochtitlán during the 1300s, which reveals that trading was a big part of the Aztecs as they were a dominant empire in Mesoamerica. The jewelry and the huge carving of the Coyoxautli expresses the power of the Aztecs and the dignity toward their gods.

On another day, we visited Teotihuacán. As we got in from our hour and a half ride, we saw the two temples standing in front of our eyes. We arrive to Las Pirámides, or the pyramids, as the locals call them. It’s the most visited archeological site in Mexico. There they are, the temples made to the Sun and the Moon, sitting quietly in what was once one of the most populated areas in the world, with about 200,000 inhabitants. These two temples were part of the Teotihuacanos, another tribe that lived to the north of Mexico City during the 200s. Amazingly, only 7 percent of the site has been studied by archeologists.

As we climb the top of both pyramids, we can see the impressive view and the size of the site that the Teotihuacanos built. Beside the steep steps and the energy that evaporates as we climb the pyramids, the short stay is marked by peacefulness at the top. It makes it perfect to sit and take pictures of the whole city.

Overlooking the pyramid of the sun, the Quetzalcóatl temple, and the Street of the Death, a long street that runs from the pyramid of the moon passing through the apartments, we relax on the top of the pyramid to listen to the tour guide explain the impressive history of this site.

It is also here that we see the temple to Quetzalcóatl, the feathered serpent that was a god of the Teotihuacanos and the Aztecs. The way that the serpent looks at us reflects the hard work that was done by these people thousands of years ago.

We also get to learn how the Maguey plant was useful not only for its Agave, but also to write and to sew. Its heavy spike was used as a needle and with it came a piece of thread. The colors for the thread would be applied from plants or animals that would make their textiles durable and colorful.

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