Monday, May 9, 2016

Visiting Teotihuacan on the "Equinox"



My original plan had been to stay at Teotihuacan as long as I liked and just catch the bus back, but with limited funds and no data on my phone, I decided to stick with my new Costa Rican friends. The line at the first gate our van pulled up to went on forever, so after a quick survey of the group, we drove to Gate 3, closer to the Pyramid of the Moon. The line, though still long, looked much more manageable. 

Short side-story about my dumb brain... I had been attempting - attempting - to keep up in Spanish for a few hours at this point. While we waited in line outside the gate, I'd noticed a kid, maybe late teens, a short ways ahead of us in line. I'd noticed him in part because he had a scar that covered one side of his face and in part because he kept looking at us. As we were headed through the gate and into the site, I spotted bathrooms and decided to seize the moment. I told my new Costa Rican friends I was going to go quickly and catch up. As I hurried toward the bathrooms, the kid with the scar crossed my path. He looked at me and asked - in English - "Do you speak English?" In all my spaztastic glory, I replied, "Lo siento, hablo EspaƱol poquito," before correcting myself with a "Sorry, yes!" I think I confused him sufficiently enough that he just walked off and I tripped my way into a Port-a-Potty, my poor brain not knowing what language it was supposed to be thinking in anymore. I have all the respect in the world for people who speak more than one language fluently, and manage to keep each one separate. 



Once inside the gate, we passed lots of small shops and stalls until starting into the ruins. There were steep steps everywhere, but the view of the Pyramid of the Moon over the first crest was spectacular. I spotted my first equinox revelers - the equinox may have technically have been a day or two before, but I don't think anyone in Mexico realized that.* It's custom to dress in white and red and greet the sun for luck, something that seems to go back to Teotihuacan's ancestral roots. Celebrations ran the gamut from day trippers in tracksuits raising their arms to the sun to full rituals with costumes, incense, music, and dancing.

*joke


The culture who built Teotihuacan, unlike the Mexica, can really be considered ancient, having arrived in the central valley around 300 BCE. They're a bit of a mystery today - anthropologists have guesses as to where the people who inhabited the city came from originally, and some think it likely that it was a multicultural metropolis. It was certainly one of the largest cities in the world in its heyday, 450 CE/AD. The city was burned and sacked 100 years later and was completely abandoned by 900 CE. What little we know about the Teotihuacanos is both helped along and confused by Mexica interest when they discovered the site almost 600 years later. The name Teotihuacan means 'Birthplace of the Gods' in Nahuatl, the language of the Mexica.



Back to the present - we walked down the main boulevard to the Temple of the Sun, stopping to check out the many rituals and dances going on, as well as the merchandise being sold. Kids wandered around with bows and dull arrows, women wore flower crowns, and the sound of jaguar whistles pierced the air. We arrived at the Temple of the Sun - the line to climb it stretched around two sides of its enormous base. We only had about an hour left, so we walked back down the avenue and climbed the Temple of the Moon instead. It had a much shorter line. The guards let us up in groups - people would slowly clamber down from the pyramid on the left, emptying the top, then others would race up the right. The steps were so steep, hands were required. I held onto the center rope on the way up - it wasn't too bad (better than the Great Pyramid in Cairo).  



Even though the Pyramid of the Moon is much shorter than the Pyramid of the Sun and you can only climb halfway up, the views down the Avenue of the Dead were incredible. I spent the next 15 minutes taking pictures and dangling my feet over the edges. Climbing down the pyramid was much harder. I chose to tackle it like a ladder, which I know made the locals laugh. Whatevs.



I bought a jaguar whistle on the way out. We got cold drinks by the exit and waited for our ride. This time, Sean and Diana picked us up themselves. We shared the van back to Mexico City with an American family - mom, dad, two girls - who had managed to climb the Pyramid of the Sun in the time allotted. My knees were grateful we hadn't, though Emma (the cousin from Mexico City) said the stairs for the Pyramid of the Sun are much less steep and you tackle them at a more reasonable pace.

Sean and Diana dropped me and the Costa Ricans off near Bellas Artes. Even if it had ended up completely different than I'd planned, it had been a good day. The downside was time wasted sitting around, but seeing as Diana said this was the busiest day she'd seen in her ten years on the site, I think everything went fairly smoothly. I'm grateful to 'Flying Pictures' for making that happen, and even more grateful to my new friends for taking me under their wings, terrible Spanish and all!

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