Touring Mexico City

Touring Mexico City! This week I’ve already been on four day tours–an economical way to see the area. In front is the tour guide, who ended up leading three of the four tours. I’m the gray haired lady in the third row with her mouth open.

These are just a few random photos that didn’t fit in with other posts. I’m enjoying my tour of Mexico City.

The agave is very important to Mexico. Not only is it popular for making alcohol, but it also is a source for paper, clothing and thread.
This is xoconostle — pronounced cho co nos le — a low type of liquor I’ve only seen in Mexico City. It is mildly sweet and has a low alcohol content. Another of the many products from the agave plant.
This is one of the major universities in Mexico City, National Autonomous University of Mexico. It is a public research university in Mexico, one of top universities in the world. This is the central library building, constructed of a mosaic of different colored stones, is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This stadium was built for the 1968 Olympics. These were the first Olympic Games to be staged in Latin America and the first to be staged in a Spanish-speaking country. They were also the first Games to use an all-weather (smooth) track for track and field events instead of the traditional cinder track. The 1968 torch relay recreated the route taken by Christopher Columbus to the New World, journeying from Greece through Italy and Spain to San Salvador Island, Bahamas, and then on to Mexico.
This is Aztec Stadium, or The Estadio Azteca. It is a football stadium located in the suburb of Santa Úrsula in Mexico City, Mexico. Since its opening in 1966, the stadium has been the official home stadium of the professional Mexican football team Club América and the official national stadium of the Mexico national football team. With an official capacity of 87,000, it is the largest stadium in Mexico, though my guide said it was the largest in the world. It is regarded as one of the most famous and iconic football stadiums in the world. The stadium was also the principal venue for the football tournament of the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Hard to see, but a small lizard is making it’s home in this huge cactus.
Here we try some of the beverages made from the agave plant. Tequila is well known, as is its more artisan version, mescal. These two are distilled, but there’s also pulque, made from the fermented liquid. Pulque was once the alcoholic drink of the area, before distillation. It’s similar to hard cider, but not as sweet. After tasting it, I can see why it’s not a popular beverage now.
So many handicrafts to buy–but where would I put them?
This is a native dog, almost completely hairless except for a spiky mop on it’s head, but it’s not a chihuahua.
A serpent garden.
For lunch we were treated to a native dance, but they moved so fast, I couldn’t get a good photo.
Lovely gardens everywhere. The weather is mild and it’s easy to grow flowers year round.
Silver is handcrafted here. It was one of the major exports after the conquest.
Jewelry stores are abundant in Mexico.

Mexico City–Teotihuacan

In the background is the Pyramid of the Sun. You can see all the other temples surrounding the two great pyramids, mostly located along the Avenue of the Dead.

I’m spending the week saying goodbye to a year of teaching English in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. While the school was a big disappointment, and I had some very bad luck, I still truly like the country and it’s people. If you’re paying with US dollars, it’s a true bargain. It’s a potential retirement spot for me (mostly since I can’t figure how I’d afford to retire in the US). My Spanish is still very rough, but I’m improving. While I may never be fluent, I do hope to be better than functional.

This week I visited the impressive pyramids of Teotihuacán. This is a must-see if you are in the area. Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in  the Valley of Mexico, 40 km (25 mi) northeast of modern-day Mexico City. It’s known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas.

The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC, with major monuments continuously under construction until about 250 AD. The city may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, but its major monuments were sacked and systematically burned around 550 AD. At its height, perhaps 450 AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 or more. The ethnicity of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan is a subject of debate. Possible candidates are the Nahua, Otomi or Totonac ethnic groups. Scholars have also suggested that Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic state.

The city and the archaeological site covers a total surface area of 83 square kms (32 sq mi) and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico.

The Avenue of the Dead, the broad walkway flanked by temples. We are facing the Pyramid of the Moon. There’s renovation on the top of this pyramid, so visitors can only go about halfway up.

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacan, believed to have been constructed about 200 AD, and one of the largest in Mesoamerica. Found along the Avenue of the Dead, in between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela, and in the shadow of the massive mountain Cerro Gordo.

It is thought that the pyramid venerated a deity within Teotihuacan society, however, little evidence exists to support this hypothesis. The destruction of the temple on top of the pyramid, by both deliberate and natural forces prior to the archaeological study of the site, has so far prevented identification of the pyramid with any particular deity.

The archaeological park of Teotihuacan is under threat from development pressures. In 2004, the governor of Mexico state, Arturo Montiel, gave permission for Wal-Mart to build a large store in the third archaeological zone of the park. According to, “[P]riceless artifacts uncovered during store construction were reportedly trucked off to a local dump and workers fired when they revealed the carnage to the press.

Mexico City–Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

This is the new church, built in the 1970’s.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish: Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) is a Roman Catholic church, basilica and National shrine of Mexico in the north of Mexico City. The shrine was built near the hill of Tepeyac where Our Lady of Guadalupe is believed to have appeared to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. This site is also known as La Villa de Guadalupe or, in a more popular sense, simply La Villa, as it has several churches and related buildings.

The view of the new church from the street. The new Basilica houses the original tilma (or cloak) of Juan Diego, which holds the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. One of the most important pilgrimage sites of Catholicism, the basilica is visited by several million people every year, especially around 12 December, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast day.
This is the old church, officially known as the “Templo Expiatorio a Cristo Rey,” the first structure of the old basilica was begun in 1695 and it was not finished until 1709. The altarpiece originally held the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This icon of Juan Diego’s cloak was housed in this church from 1709 to 1974.
The present church was constructed on the site of an earlier 16th-century church that was finished in 1709, the Old Basilica. When this basilica became dangerous due to the sinking of its foundations, a modern structure called the New Basilica was built next to it; the original image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is now housed in this New Basilica. Built between 1974 and 1976, the new Basilica has a circular floorplan.
This is Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe (Spanish: Virgen de Guadalupe). This venerated image enshrined in gold. The basilica is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, and the world’s third most-visited sacred site. Pope Leo XIII granted the venerated image a Canonical Coronation on 12 October 1895.

Official Catholic accounts state that the Virgin Mary appeared four times before Juan Diego and one more before Juan Diego’s uncle. According to these accounts the first apparition occurred on the morning of December 9, 1531, when a native Mexican peasant named Juan Diego saw a vision of a maiden at a place called the Hill of Tepeyac, which would become part of Villa de Guadalupe, a suburb of Mexico City. Speaking to Juan Diego in his native Nahuatl language (the language of the Aztec empire), the maiden identified herself as the Virgin Mary, “mother of the very true deity” and asked for a church to be built at that site in her honor.

The archbishop of Mexico City, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, simply didn’t believe him and asked for proof. According to the legend, The Virgin arranged Castilian roses (not native tot he area) in Juan’s tilma, or cloak, and when Juan Diego opened his cloak before archbishop Zumárraga on December 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and on the fabric was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

You can view the image, enshrined behind the altar, from a conveyor belt.

Mexico City–Plaza of the three cultures

The view from the highway.

I’m spending the week touring Mexico City.

The Plaza de las Tres Culturas (“Square of the Three Cultures”) is the main square within a neighborhood of Mexico City. The name “Three Cultures” is in recognition of the three periods of Mexican history reflected by buildings in the plaza: pre-Columbian (here, Aztec), Spanish colonial, and the independent “mestizo” nation. The plaza, designed by Mexican architect Mario Pani, was completed in 1966.

Monument to the Tlatelolco massacre (above) in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. On October 2, 1968, ten days before the start of the 1968 Summer Olympics, the plaza was the scene of the Tlatelolco massacre. Between 30 and 300 student protesters were killed by the Mexican army and police who were trying to suppress the protests.
The square contains the remains of Aztec temples and is flanked by the Catholic church of Santiago de Tlatelolco (built between 1604 and 1610 by fray Juan de Torquemada) and by a massive housing complex built in 1964. Tlatilōlco, literally translates “In the little hill of land.” This is an area now within the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City. These archeological remains are from the 15th and 16th centuries, plus there are more recent colonial structures.
The square is bounded by an excavated Aztec archaeological site, the 17th-century church designed by Fray Juan de Torquemada and dedicated to St James the Great (known as Santiago de Tlatelolco), the remains of a former Franciscan convent to which was formerly attached the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, and an office complex that was used by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and is now the property of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Mexico City–Zocalo

This is the entrance to the National Palace, located along one side of the Zocalo. The President lives and works here. Much of the current palace’s building materials are from the original one that belonged to Moctezuma II.

I’m spending a week in Mexico City, doing day tours and saying good bye to a year of living in this country.

The Zocalo is located in downtown and is the original center of the city, as found by the conqueror, Cortes. It’s the main square in central Mexico City and one of the largest city squares in the world.  Prior to the colonial period, it was the main ceremonial center in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The formal name is Plaza de la Constitución, but plaza construction might be a better name–the center is under renovation. The site is just one block southwest of the Templo Mayor which, according to Aztec legend and mythology, was considered the center of the universe.

This statue represents the founding of what is now Mexico City. The city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan was founded by the Mexica people in 1325. The old Mexica city that is now simply referred to as Tenochtitlan was built on an island in the center of the inland lake system of the Valley of Mexico, which it shared with a smaller city-state called Tlatelolco. According to legend, the Mexicas’ principal god, Huitzilopochtli indicated the site where they were to build their home by presenting an eagle perched on a nopal cactus with a snake in its beak.

Mexico City, or the City of Mexico (Spanish: Ciudad de México, abbreviated as CDMX), is the capital and most populous city of Mexico. Mexico City is one of the most important financial centers in the Americas. It is located at an altitude of 7,350 ft. Greater Mexico City’s population is 21.2 million people, making it the second-largest metropolitan area of the western hemisphere, behind New York, the tenth-largest agglomeration, and the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (Spanish: Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos) is the largest cathedral in the Americas, and seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico. It is situated atop the former Aztec sacred precinct near the Templo Mayor. The cathedral was built in sections from 1573 to 1813 around the original church that was constructed soon after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan, eventually replacing it entirely.
While I enjoyed the tour, this little girl was probably the highlight.
Art exhibit at the plaza

Photos from inside and around the Cathedral.

This is a replica of the shroud of Turin.

The Aztec pyramid, Templo Mayor, is under archeological excavation and it’s possible to enter to see some of the structure. Much of the stone was taken and used for other construction, however.