Category Archives: tourist guide

8 ancient ruins in Mexico City you should visit

Mexico is worldwide known for its ancient cities that once stood tall and magnificent. Built by masterful native architects and artists today lie in ruins – awaiting for our eyes to see their grandeur of times past.

Chichen Itza is one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world but Mexico City has wonders worth of sightseeing and marvel upon. Here’s a list I’ve compiled of ancient ruins if you’re ever at the Mexican capital and wish to delve into the experience of indigenous cities.

If you don’t mind walking, a bit of sun, and wandering amongst millenia-old buildings then this is for you!

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Teotihuacan
Location: Northeastern Mexico City metro area.
Walking: *****
Native food: Yes
Touristy: Yes
Built not by Aztecs but by a multicultural population of Huuastec and Otomi people, it became the most powerful city of its time, much more than Mayan cities. Two major pyramid-temples and dozens of smaller ones await you. Plus, the exquisite palaces that still stand are a delight. It is a huge place, after all it is the actual downtown of one of the most massive cities in the world.

Cuicuilco
Location: Southern Mexico City’s Pedregal area.
Walking: **
Native food: No.
Touristy: Yes.
There is a spirited debate concerning its antiquity, some say 8000 years old but mainstream scholars have it at 3000 years old. Famous for its round pyramid, one of the oldest structure in the Americas. No texts survive so we don’t have any info on Cuicuilco’s history. Nowadays surrounded by shopping malls, expect traffic.

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Tenayuca
Location: northern Mexico City, in Tlalnepantla municipality.
Walking: **
Native food: No.
Touristy: Partly.
Founded by Xolotl the Great, it was once the capital of the Chichimec Domain. Part of it is enclosed by government, but the other part you can literally walk into it. Main structures are the towering pyramids and a palace complex. Mainly local tourists know of this place.

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Santa Cecilia Acatitla
Location: Northern Mexico City, Tlalnepantla municipality.
Walking: *
Native food: No.
Touristy: No.
Firsthand, it is hard to reach it, located in a maze of streets but nothing Waze or Google Maps can’t handle (I’ve been to places that aren’t in the satellites yet!). Once you get there the reward is the ONLY native pyramid temple intact. Lots of photo-ops. A small museum houses the artifacts found there. Don’t go late, locals say it can be dangerous during the night.

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Tlatelolco
Location: Near downtown area and Reforma Avenue.
Walking: ***
Native food: No
Touristy: Partly
The ancient ruins share its place with a colonial church and mid-20th century apartment buildings. Thus known as the Three Cultures Plaza. The place is well organized but there is literally no parking area or usual tourist-trap vendors. Local tourists and couples do hang in there. In Tlatelolco Hernan Cortes fought the definitive battle that meant the defeat of the Triple Alliance, aka wrongly-named Aztec Empire.

Pino Suarez subway station
Location: Downtown southern area.
Walking: *
Native food: No.
Touristy: No.
Inside this station of Mexico City’s subway is a drum-like temple built by the Mexica Aztecs in honor of the spirit of the wind, Ehecatl Quetzalcoatl. It is definitely not touristy, as this subway station is used by local commuters. The ancient city of Tenochtitlan is under modern Mexico City, this means most buildings remain down there, but not visible, except a few like this one.

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Calmecac
Location: Downtown
Walking: *
Native food: No
Touristy: Yes
When the Spanish Centre was digging to build an underground parking garage of their own they stumbled with the Mexica Aztec university, known as Calmecac. This ancient school was where people studied priesthood, sciences, and military. Not only the ruins are down there but artwork that was found as well. Once done, you can check for contemporary art upstairs.

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Tenochtitlan
Location: Downtown
Walking: ***
Native food: Yes
Touristy: Yes
Last but not least the proper capital of the Mexica Azteca. Decimated by the Hispanics, they never imagined countless pyramids would survive under the main temple, since they were built like Russian dolls. One can walk around them seeing each period. The walk culminates with the museum. Outside there are restaurants, yes, but if you want authentic Aztec food try crickets with chilli.

If you’re interested in Ancient Mexico history check out my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

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Wildlife at the Mexican deserts

Photo I shot of a Mexican prairie dog.

What one can find at the apparent desolate and barren deserts can be surprising. Is it because no one expects anything and suddenly you stumble upon life? Or is it because there is indeed a wealth of thriving life?

It has always surprised me to find beautiful flowers, bunch of critters, colorful birds and of course the occasional furry friend like this one.

Contrary to worldwide popular belief Mexico is not all desert. Central Mexico has pine forests, and South Mexico has jungles and swamps. I’ve visited all of them! The place that never fails to surprise me when finding little animals, or just life, is the Mexican desert.

Of course I won’t like to cross roads with a bear or a jaguar — probably won’t since they’re in near extinction. Sad. And still the lonely desert is a cradle of life.

These furry pals are could also face extinction. Prairie dogs along with other desert animals are in danger due to human activity (hunting or poaching). Until recent years the Mexican government has enforced protecting these animals, and hunt down illegal hunting. Especially in San Luis Potosi state I have seen it, people getting arrested for killing endangered coyotes or selling baby deer to passing tourists.

Still much has to be done. And I for one support hunting animals with a camera. It’s actually more fun, and like pretty gals say when we men foolishly drool at their beauty “take a picture, it lasts longer.” Indeed it does!

If you’re interested in Mexico and its riches, check out my ebook novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

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Mexico City metro area — what is it?

Photo I shot at Cuautitlan, Mexico.

Mexico City metro area is gigantic. Not only it spans over a large area but it’s also over-populated. There is a Federal District, locally known as DF — Mexico City proper. Surrounding it is the other metropolitan area in the State of Mexico.

Outside the DF limits there are 22 municipalities, to explain each one is a hard task (perhaps for another post). Each has its goodies and its bad sides, as with any place.

The northern municipalities of Mexico City’s metro area is the more vast, it encompass Teotihuacan pyramids for instance. We could divide it in Northeastern and Northwestern, all beyonf the Guadalupe Sierra mountains. Tepotzotlan and Cuautitlan are here. Before the mountains there are other municipalities as well.

Then you have the western municipalities, more posh and upscale. They’re best attractions are the pine forests. Yes, in Mexico we have forests, sorry to dissappoint Hollywood.

On the East, behind the airport we have small towns that also have ancient ruins and yearly fairs.

Finally there’s the Chalco region and volcanoes, where the main attractions are obvious although there are also beautiful colonial towns and breathtaking landscapes.

If you’re interested in Mexico, check out my novel set in Ancient Mexico. Till Stars Shut Their Eyes, a romance and political thriller based on true events.

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Greetings from Texcoco, Mexico

Text and photo by Miguel Omaña.

Once the capital of Tlatoani (ruler) Netzahualcoyotl, a member of the Triple Alliance (popularly known as the Aztec Empire), and home of master artisans.

I will be visiting the most important ancient Mexican cities during the time of the Chichimec Domain (way before the Mexica Aztecs, and immediate predecesor to the Tepanec rule). These places appear in my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes. You can locate them in the map I did on amatl paper.

Texcoco was one of the three capitals of the Triple Alliance, popularly known as Aztec Empire.

This is Texcoco, previously known as Tetzcoco – or perhaps Tetzcuco, since their people were known to accentuate the “u” instead of the “o” in Nahuatl language. One of the three major capitals (or heads) that governed the Triple Alliance (popularly known as Aztec Empire in Academia and the media) along Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan.

Visiting Texcoco, Mexico, one of the places that appear in my novel. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña. Visiting Texcoco, Mexico, one of the places that appear in my novel. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.

Don’t be fooled by the green, there’s a Burger King nearby.

Don’t be fooled by the green and the ruined promontory that perhaps was a temple in other times this is Texcoco’s downtown. The site is called Los Melones and is surrounded by schools, a Burger King and other Mexican restaurants and retail stores. Since Texcoco was an important city after the arrival of the Hispanics, everything that was once Texcoco was destroyed except this rather small (very small) area. Or perhaps much remains underneath just like in Mexico City’s downtown, were every month city workers keep uncovering the ancient Mexica capital underneath modern-day streets, churches, and buildings.

As a Chichimec capital Texcoco rose with prestige.

After Quinatzin Tlaltecatzin moved the Chichimec capital from Tenayuca to Texcoco, the city gained prominence in the Eastern Lands of the Valley of Mexico. At one time, Texcoco was the capital of all the Chichimec Domain, but later diminished to become capital of a country loosely named Acolhuacan. As an Acolhua capital, its territory went from Southern Hidalgo state to the northern towns of Morelos state.

There were universities, libraries, and courts in ancient Texcoco.

After the Tepanec Wars, Netzahualcoyotl of Texcoco not only gained independence for his nation from Azcapotzalco, but also to the Mexica. Being his home, Tlatoani (ruler) Netzahualcoyotl established universities, libraries, schools, and courts – but he never forgot his cousins the Mexica. He also did a great deal for Tenochtitlan especially concerning engineering works.

The Hispanics fought a naval battle against the natives.

After the Toxcatl massacre in Tenochtitlan, the Hispanics went to war against the Mexica, and they used Texcoco as their base. The city was close to the lake, so they used it to their advantage and built small ships called bergantines. With their small fleet, the Europeans in coalition with Cholulteca, Huexotzinca, Tlaxcalteca, and Otomí engaged the Mexica fleet and sieged the city with cannons.

Texcoco’s role became diminished, and was even witness to one of the worst police abuse in Western history.

After the fall, Texcoco was still an important city, so much that at some point it was the capital of the State of Mexico (a state that surrounds Mexico City). But the mexiquense capital was changed, and Texcoco importance was suddenly halted. The destruction of Lake Texcoco did not help either. Without its lake and prestige, Texcoco suddenly found itself in the middle of nowhere. At the beginning of the 21st century Texcoco and its vicinity suffered police abuse, riots broke, and then governor Peña Nieto’s state police raped, abused, and dissappeared people in the area, especially in Atenco, a few miles to the northwest. Today, the Mexiquense highway (sort of a loop of gargantuan proportions that surrounds Mexico City) has brought new life to the area, although the local people is wary since it has already attracted the gigantic new Mexico City airport to be built nearby.


You can buy my novel at your online book retailer or MiguelOmana.com


Quick (very quick) guide to Tepotzotlan, Mexico

Photo and text by Miguel Omaña.

In the northwestern outskirts of Mexico City metro area is located this little place. Once a town by itself, nowadays it has been gnashed by the unyielding growth of the Mexican capital urban sprawl.

Tepotzotlan is a small town and municipality which houses many baroque treasures and ancient indigenous relics from its past. During weekends the stretched-street town enjoys (or sometimes suffers) the overwhelming tourist packs that either visit its local eateries or attend upscale pompous weddings (mainly from outsiders, people from other parts of the city). This tourist magnet can become a tourist trap if not properly knowledgeable of what to do or visit.

If you’re into culture.

Tepotzotlan has the Museum of the Viceroyalty or Museo del Virreinato. Before it was an independent (so they say) nation, it was the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Although the name conveys the idea of all-things colonial, don’t get fooled because inside the monastery turned museum you can also find ancient native pieces, art, statues and ceramics. Every now and then they house old Mexican music concert (no, not from the 1970’s, I mean really old and rare music).

Maybe your more of a sporty kind of person.

Nearby Tepotzotlan downtown area there’s a gorgeous botanical garden called Xochitla. It is a five minute drive from the town’s main streets. The place, once an old hacienda or Mexican plantation, has a wide variety of activities. You can to biking, rollerskating, running, outdoor photography, and much more. They also have activities for the wee ones.

Or perhaps you like going off the usual path.

The town is situated in the beginning of a mountain range. Access to climb or trek the mountain exist. For instance, there’s the Tepotzotli. Up in the mountain one can see river streams and large forest patches (I will post pictures of my trip up there).

Maybe you’re just into tourist traps.

If so, Tepotzotlan has restaurants, bars, street eateries, a local market with true Mexican food, crafts, art, and sometimes public events like shows, live music, and native dancers.

Tepotzotlan, Mexico. Copyright 2013 Miguel Omaña. Tepotzotlan, Mexico. Copyright 2013 Miguel Omaña.