Tag Archives: travel photography

Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico

Photo I shot at Dolores Hidalgo, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.

One of the many churches that stand since colonial times — many made with cantera stone, which create the delicate soft color. Also, tiles and other artistic expressions were used to decorate the facade of Mexican churches.

A town populated by talavera ceramic artisans.

While visiting Dolores, I always love to stroll at the local market, where fresh produce and prepared food is available. The outskirts of the town are populated with artisans who work 24/7 on the creation of pottery and home decor based on talavera ceramic. Although tourism is what nowadays is making Dolores stand, talavera ceramic is still by far the main reason Dolores thrive.

Located in Central Mexico, in Guanajuato state. 10 hour drive from the US-Mexico border — give or take.



Mexico City’s main avenue

Photo I shot at Mexico City’s Reforma Avenue.

I did this long exposure photography while I was lying near where the cars passed in order to obtain this light effect.

Once an imperial boulevard during the times of the Second Mexican Empire led by Emperors Maximilian of Hapsburg and Carlotta of Belgium, today it is a financial and posh street. It has become the most important street in all of Mexico.

The independence column houses the remains of men and women who led the Mexican Independence War.

Commonly called the angel by Mexicans in general, in reality it’s the semi-nude Greek goddess of Victory.

Long Exposure in Mexico City. Copyright 2013 Miguel Omaña.
Long Exposure in Mexico City. Copyright 2013 Miguel Omaña.

Summer rain at Central Mexico

Jilotepec is a town an hour-driving outside of Mexico City’s metro city limits. While visiting this place and its fields, it started raining. The daily afternoon rain is a trademark of a true Mexican summer, contrary to popular belief abroad.

Ominous clouds, roaring thunders, copious rainfall, a nightly coldness, and the once-a-week hail constitute a typical Mexican summer in Central Mexico and many parts of the country.

The idea of a desert nation comes from Hollywood movies and America’s mindset because of the huge desert located in the border with the United States. The rest of Mexico is a mosaic of isolated and differing climates. You could be in grassy landscape like this one in Jilotepec, and no one would guess that a 15-minute driving westward one will find a thick pine tree forest in El Ocotal area. It’s like saying all of America has all-Americana wooden red barns.

Just like the terrain of this nations is misunderstood, so the people. Mexicans can actually be more good than foreigners can think, and yet there are also far more dangerous ones — let’s say the spectrum is way off Trump’s mindset.

Jilotepec is a nice town to visit, nearby Tula’s archeological ruins left by the ancient Toltecs. In fact, all this area was once important in times of the Mexica Aztecs. Plan ahead if you’re staying in Mexico City, for it can be hard to leave the city due to traffic conditions of apocalyptic proportions — a bit of a joke, but it can be weary for someone not used to it.

Jilotepec means Hill of the tender (not ripe) corn.

If you’re interested in Mexico, its history and people, you may enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

Summer rain at Jilotepec, Mexico. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.
Summer rain at Jilotepec, Mexico. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.

Mexico City’s Alameda park.

Mobile Photo I shot at Mexico City’s downtown, in the Alameda park.

It is located within walking distance from the rest of Mexico City’s historic downtown — what was once the Mexica Aztec capital — and upscale Reforma Avenue. The Alameda has the Fine Arts Palace in its grounds, and posh hotels around it.

One of the oldest parks of Mexico City, it once went to a deplorable state for many decades (as with all forgotten urban jewels in the world). Just last year the Alameda was recovered to what it might have looked in its full glory during the last centuries.

The towering Latinoamericana Tower is the tallest building that stands in the downtown area of the Mexican capital — the reason — the dangerous marshy land in which the area is located. Once an island, the Aztec Mexica capital of Mexico Tenochtitlan was surrounded with water. Actually the Aztec Mexica streets were water causeways like in Venice, except for the few connecting roads to “mainland”. As the city sprawled, the marshy lands and Aztec ruins became the foundation for the new city. This part of the city can’t have tall buildings for that reason, and to have the Latinoamericana Tower standing there, already sustaining strong earthquakes like the one in 1985, is called by architects and engineers a feat.

But fate shall not be tempted, and so taller and shinier buildings are standing in Reforma Avenue (and still more being erected) away from the zone. One can walk from Alameda Park to the nation’s most famous avenue, locally known as Paseo de la Reforma, where more hotels, shops, malls, and monuments are located.

If you like history and places of Mexico, you may enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

Mexico City's Alameda Park. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.
Mexico City’s Alameda Park. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.

San Miguel de Allende church

Photo I shot at San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

This building was designed by a man based solely on postcards from European Gothic cathedrals. So, in many instances he had to guess, since he was not an architect. Nowadays, upon examination, experts say it has not only Gothic elements but many colonial Mexican and native elements alike.

Such a mix beautifies this building, confirming that a good mixture can become something of worth.

San Miguel de Allende is located 4-hour driving north of Mexico City.

If you’re interested in Mexican history, you may enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

San Miguel de Allende church. Copyright 2009-2013 Miguel Omaña. San Miguel de Allende church. Copyright 2009-2013 Miguel Omaña.

Greetings from Coatlinchan

Greetings from Coatlinchan!

Photo and text by Miguel Omaña.
An ancient Mexican native altepetl (capital city) whose origin spans back to the time of the Toltecs, the prestigious city of the Eastern Lands of the Valley of Mexico, and where monumental artistry flourished. Today it is under the lascerating erosion of oblivion – and yet it is still there, as many places in modern Mexico and Central America. I continue to visit the sites that appear in my novel, this is another one.

Coatlinchan shared power with the Toltec main city.

During the heyday of the Toltecs, Coatlinchan was linked to Tollan Xicocotitlan (today known as famously tourist site of Tula in the state of Hidalgo), the epicenter of all things Toltec. Although there’s the idea that Tula was the political High Capital of the Toltecs, the reality was that rulership was shared under a then innovative system for sharing power which included Coatlinchan and gave status to the city.

Coatlinchan was part of beginnings of the Triple Alliance political system.

After the fall of the superpowers of this world – Teotihuacan, Tikal, and Calakmul – the overwhelming political vacuum forced the orphan new nations to survive by trying a different political system. The era of the imposing one-capital gave way to the Triple Alliance scheme. Three cities elevated each as a capital, but working in joint efforts. Apparently this project was successful since it appeared not only in Central Mexico but also at the Maya world in the Yucatan Peninsula and at P’urepecha land in Michoacan (Perhaps even in the Chalchihuite-Altavista region).

Henceforth Tula, Coatlinchan, and Colhuacan (nowadays in the Iztapalapa borough, Mexico City) comprised the Triple Alliance of Central Mexico. The lives of those Three Heads (as it was also called) were so intertwined, that the list of their rulers is confused from one another. The problem with the Triple Alliance system is that one polity tends to gain more voice than the other two. In this case it was Tula, who was regarded as the center of all things artistic, cultured, and civilization. This made the alliance fragile.

After Tula falls, Coatlinchan goes on.

After many eerie omens, Tula collapsed. The reasons are countless, but this left Coatlinchan alone with its sister city Colhuacan. Although Colhuacan enjoyed more proximity with Tula’s elite, they retained the glory of safekeeping the continuation of the lineage of Toltec families. What Coatlinchan kept was something that with times proved to be far more valuable, prestige over the cities, towns, and people of the Eastern Lands. These territory was East of the later known as Lake Texcoco, an interconnected set of five great lakes. Its elongated size spanned from the north in what is today the state of Hidalgo down south to the state of Morelos.

Turbulent times as northern immigrants descend to the Valley.

The fall attracted a continuous influx of immigrant contingents that arrived from the vast Northern lands. They were the first humans to be affected by what we now know as desertification caused by the climate change phenomenon (also known as global warming). Whatever the origin or cause, global warming forced thousands to leave each year to seek fairer climates. One of those who arrived changed the destiny of this part of the world, Xolotl. With a massive group following him from the Tampico, Tamaulipas area, Xolotl Amacui took political control of Central Mexico. Way before Nazi Germany’s blitzkrieg or George W. Bush’s shock-and-awe, in matter of months Xolotl’s men-at-arms seized the land in-between the limits of Michoacan to the Gulf of Mexico. This time is turbulent for Coatlinchan, and literally there is no dynastic link between the before and after of Xolotl. This only happened to cities or capitals where its rulers refused to be under the rule of Xolotl. Whatever the case, Xolotl spared the city and its inhabitants.

The Chichimec Domain era, Coatlinchan brights again.

The high capital was now Tenayuca (today Tlalnepantla, state of Mexico), and from there the Chichimec Dominion ruled sternly but ironically not to impose their way of life, but that which existed before them. Xolotl, his son Nopaltzin, his grandson Tlotzin Pochotl, his great-grandson Quinatzin Tlaltecatzin, and his great-great-grandson Techotlalla – each implemented major modern reforms to establish civilization ideals as the highest the people should pursue. These reforms found dissent amongst other Chichimec immigrants which were established in the Eastern Lands. A struggle that put Coatlinchan in the political spotlight, since the rebellion was to be crushed within its territory.

The uprise of a lover named Yacanex.

Swiftly Coatlinchan allied with Tenayuca to contain the uprise led by Yacanex of Tepetlaoztoc. A manwho also rose because he wasn’t permitted to marry Atotoztli of Colhuacan, who was already given to Huetzin of Coatlinchan as wife. Tenayuca, Coatlinchan, and Colhuacan quickly movilized to hide Atotoztli in Coatlinchan from the rebel Yacanex. This infuriated Yacanex and his thousands of followers from the area of Atenco. They took their fight against Coatlinchan, after all, this city represented the interests or failures in the Eastern Lands. In painted chronicles we can see Huetzin of Coatlinchan (son of the Tlatoani of Coatlinchan) against Yacanex. The war lasted many years, and in each combat Coatlinchan and its allies winning.

Then came Azcapotzalco to rule them all.

After the war, Coatlinchan remained standing, its sister city Colhuacan did not. This city was the last of the Toltec Triple Alliance, and so important elite intermarried with them, connecting many genealogical links to Coatlinchan, including that of a then minor city called Mexico Tenochtitlan (pronounced meSHIco tenochTItlan), and a rising star called Texcoco. But the rising star rose much faster because one of its sons was famed poet warrior Nezahualcoyotl. Texcoco slowly but surely shadowed Coatlinchan. The era of the Chichimec Domain was long gone, but Azcapotzalco desperately made all that was possible to retain its importance. Tezozomoc of Azcapotzalco declared itself the sole heir of the rulers of Tenayuca — which he was a heir, but not the sole one. The new Huey Tlatoani (High Ruler) established military garrisons in Coatlinchan in its bloody war against Texcoco. The fiery bravado with which Azcapotzalco ruled made the Mexica Aztecs one of their finest pupils. But the students learned so good, that it superseded the teacher.

The ultimate Triple Alliance is forged, without Coatlinchan.

When the Mexica Aztecs destroyed Azcpotzalco in their war of independence, the Triple Alliance was once established over the ruins of the Tepanec ruins. Sadly, the new Triple Alliance did not include Coatlinchan. The reason was that Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco, Itzcoatl of Mexico, and Tlacaelel of Mexico reached a compromise with the surviving Tepanecs. After all, they were afraid one day they could turn against them. So instead of Coatlinchan, the only Toltec Triple Alliance city, Mexico Tenochtitlan and Texcoco chose Tlacopan (today Tacuba district, in Mexico City) as the third head of the alliance in order for the Tepanecs to be represented in the new Triple Alliance the world now wrongfully knows as the Aztec Empire.

Coatlinchan was so prestigous, that even Tlaloc refused to leave.

Coatlinchan survived in times of these “Aztec Empire”, contrary to what the extremely biased chronicles of the Mexica Aztecs want us to know, this city was never touched in war or other form except when Nezahualcoyotl fought the Tepanec fighters shielded in Coatlinchan during the reconquest of his nation in times of Maxtla. The city flourished artistically under the poet warrior tlatoani. Coatlinchan built a gigantic statue of Tlaloc (or perhaps his wife Chalchiuhtlicue), the manifestation of rain. After all, Coatlinchan was and still is surrounded by fertile land, and the city depended on rain and dreaded hail.
After our holocaust, Mexico gained independence from the Hispanics and struggled to find an effective political system. Dictators came and went. And after Porfirio Diaz, Mexico was ruled by the surviving revolutionaries of the Mexican Revolution. Their new government wanted to modernize the nation, especially in education. So they did a controversial move in such endeavor, they collected masterpieces from each city and ancient indigenous nation to be displayed in one unique site in an upscale area of Mexico City. One of such masterpieces was the Tlaloc of Coatlinchan. Its inhabitants refused the move, but the government with monumental machinery carried the Tlaloc who also refused to go from Coatlinchan, for it poured a heavy rain during its entire trip and rare technical problems appeared. But not even Tlaloc was safe from the modernization the Mexican government wanted.

What of Coatlinchan today?

The rain ceased once the colossal statue rested in its new home, outside of the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City’s famed Reforma Avenue (across from where the President lives). Perhaps after all Coatlinchan is still so prestigious, that its major treasure was taken to be showcased to millions of foreigners and tourists from around the world. The irony is those tourists nowadays take #selfies for their Instagram accounts with the mighty giant of Coatlinchan, but nobody visits now the city that made the statue, started the idea of the Triple Alliance, and dodged wars. Totally understandable, since today’s rulers have no interest to boost efforts for people, here in Mexico or abroad, to know such cities as Coatlinchan. It is of relatively complicated access, and has no infrastructure to receive visitors. Coatlinchan once shone, in the best of Mexican history, and now lies dark in the best of globalized society.

To get my novel, where the city of Coatlinchan appears, you can find it here or at online book retailers. 

Greetings from Coatlinchan. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omana.
Greetings from Coatlinchan. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omana.

A hill with stories of magic

Text and photos by Miguel Omaña.

In Southeast Mexico City’s huge valley there is a place cluttered with volcanoes, hills, forests, but also with strange stories since times of old.

Summit of the Sacromonte hill, with view of the snowy volcanoes and the town of Amecameca, Mexico. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña. Summit of the Sacromonte hill, with view of the snowy volcanoes and the town of Amecameca, Mexico. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña.

The Sacromonte, a magnet to stories of magic.

Although many towns are sprinkled below the active Popocatepetl volcano, one stands as the to-go town, Amecameca. Not only roads intersect there, but it seems to be in the middle of the area, with hotels, restaurants, and farmers’ market. To the west of the small town of Amecameca there’s a hill. Now crowned with a church and a cemetery from Colonial times, it used to be a magnet for stories involving the magical — the Sacromonte.

Geographical names in Mexico give you a hint of what happened there.

Sacromonte means in Spanish Sacred Hill, and the name gives us clues of its importance. In Mexico, the names of geographical places carry a clue of the place. Many hills are named for whatever was there, for example the Peñon De Los Baños — The Boulder of the Baths — refers to the hill where the Mexica Aztec rulers used to have their spa and baths installations (nowadays Mexico City’s airport radar can be seen there). In this case, the purpose of this hill was its sacredeness. In ancient times the hill was called Chalchiuhmomoztli.

View of the Sacromonte hill, and what lies below, still surrounded by crops. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña. View of the Sacromonte hill, and what lies below, still surrounded by crops. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña.

A mysterious temple that guarded magical waters.

In the Sacromonte Chalchiumomoztli Hill  a temple standing probably where the European church now stands. The mysterious temple guarded magical waters that gave powers to the Olmeca Xicallanca people, original inhabitants of the area, before they were pushed to the other side of the volcanoes. Those powers involved transforming themselves into animals or rain.

Iztaccihuatl Volcano as seen from the Sacromonte hill. Below the town of Amecameca, Mexico. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña. Iztaccihuatl Volcano as seen from the Sacromonte hill. Below the town of Amecameca, Mexico. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña.

A magical arrow that burned magical waters.

There is another story where Atonaltzin, a Totolimpaneca warrior and chieftain shot an arrow to the spring of this magical water and the water burned and only to disappear. This seems to have been the end of those magical waters that, if stories are accurate, once flowed from this hill.

Shapeshifters in Mexico are known as Nahuales.

In other places stories exist of people transforming into animals, wind, rain, and other weather elements. Some of these stories are recounted as being literal, while other stories may be metaphorical. Nowadays, in modern Mexico, these shapeshifters are called Nahual (plural Nahuales). While some contend this are metaphorical stories that invite us to an inner understand of ourselves, others claim they have seen or hear Nahuales still to our days.

If you like stories from Ancient Mexico, you may enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.