The next morning I woke up early to catch a Turibus, which was highly recommended by locals, to go to Teotihuacán and Basilica de Guadalupe. My friends I had met earlier in the week, Z and K, decided to hike the volcano nearby. I bought my ticket at the Zocalo and headed toward the ancient Aztec religious capital, Teotihuacán.
First, we stopped several blocks from the Basilica de Guadalupe, which was not on my list of things to see in Mexico City. I was blown away by the basilica when I got there. The basilica grounds include 3 to 4 other churches whose architecture was absolutely stunning and a moving musical water clock that told the story of the crucifixion. I found it interesting that these churches, which history holds extreme cultural significance to the spread of Catholicism in Mexico, were built on the sight of an Aztec temple. The beauty of these churches made it hard to remember and reconcile their role in the decimation of Aztecs and other indigenous cultures in Mexico.
Personally, the basilica itself is the least impressive church in the area. Although the basilica has exciting architecture, that is not the draw of this holy house of worship. The basilica holds a relic of Saint Juan Diego. The story of this relic starts with Saint Juan Diego, an Aztec who converted to Catholicism. He was walking up Tepeyac Hill when the Virgin Mary, Lady Guadalupe in Spanish, appeared to him and asked for a shrine to be built on the hill in her honor.
When Juan Diego asked the Archbishop to build a church, he was ignored. After being persistent, the Archbishop said he would build the church in her honor with one stipulation; he needed a sign to prove that this was indeed the Virgin Mary asking for the shrine. That evening Our Lady Guadalupe promised to appear to Juan Diego the next day to give him a sign on Tepeyac Hill. However, Juan Diego’s uncle suddenly took deathly ill, so Juan Diego went to him to give him his last rights. Having missed his appointment and filled with shame Juan Diego went up the hill a few days later, hoping for a sign.
Our Lady Guadalupe did appear to him and chided him for not having enough faith that she would provide. She then ordered Juan Diego to pick roses from the top of the hill even though it was winter and the hill was barren. Juan Diego obeyed; when he reached the top, he found a Castillian rose bush, a non-native rose. Juan Diego carried roses in his cloak down the hill to the Archbishop. When Juan Diego opened his cloak in front of the Archbishop, he revealed the image of the Virgin Mary upon it.
This is considered one of the two miracles that solidified Juan Diego’s story of Our lady Guadalupe appearing to him. The second was the overnight recovery of Juan Diego’s uncle after his uncle saw the Virgin Mary praying over his sleepy body in a dream. The third happened shortly after the church was hastily erected onto the hill. Locals, often referred to as natives in the telling of this story, carried a man, who was fatally injured by an arrow during a display honoring the Virgin Mary, up the hill. They laid him down in front of the relic enshrined in the church. They pulled out the arrow to find that the man was fully healed. These miracles and Juan Diego’s story helped spread Catholicism across Mexico and made the Virgen Mary an essential part of Mexican culture.
After learning more about the relic enshrined at the basilica, I was excited to see it. I headed down the elevator to the moving walkways that took you past the image of Our Lady Guadalupe on San Juan Diego’s cloak. At first, I was so confused, almost dazed, as I was trying to look up, see the relic take photos, and perhaps feel something spiritual. I went through it twice since there was no line, but I was left not feeling anything. I don’t know what I expected; definitely nothing deep or profound. Still, I did hope I would have a moment in front of it for silent meditation, introspection, and study of this important cultural relic. The moving walkways did not allow anything spiritual and felt like a cringy tourist attraction. It was a cool experience nonetheless.
From the basilica, I returned to my tour bus, and we headed out to the infamous religious center for the Aztecs in Teotihuacán The 45min to an-hour drive went by fast, and before I knew it, I was walking amongst the temples of the gods.
Unlike in the Basilica de Guadalupe here, the TuriBus guides book us off into two groups, one for the Spanish speakers and one for the English speakers. They walked us through a portion of one of the temples showing us carvings and wall art explaining how things were made and carved. They took us to several rooms, including a temple burial room, before letting us explore independently.
Although we did not have much time to explore, I could walk the steep and narrow steps of the temples of the Sun and Moon, where I saw some epic views of the complex and surrounding countryside. Honestly, these temples and the views were stunning. I’m so happy I forced myself up despite being out of shape and almost dying on the temple of the Sun. The steps are no joke.
With my free time ending, I returned to the bus. At the parking lot entrance, I bought a bracelet from an artisan. After bargaining for a cheaper price and paying the person, he insisted I buy another one. I was nearing the end of my cash, so I declined. He then chased me to my bus, trying to get me to buy another one even though I told him I didn’t have any more cash several times.
I had read warnings about the aggressive sellers in Teotihuacán, and every warning was correct. When I said chased, I mean it. He followed me the whole 40 yards to my bus. About halfway there, when he was not giving up yelling at me and trying to keep up, I started sprinting, and he proceeded to sprint as well till I stepped through the doors of my bus. It was definitely a little scary. I knew he wouldn’t do anything to me because my bus driver watched what was happening during this whole thing. Still, I was very uneasy during the incident. Just be careful when purchasing from these sellers and maybe avoid them altogether if you go alone without a tour group.
Safely on the bus, we made our way to a nearby restaurant that was a tourist trap. The best kind of tourist trap. The food was pretty good, and they served hibiscus juice after lunch. While we ate, they had a mariachi band and indigenous dancers performing traditional Aztec dances. Usually, I avoid super tourist things like this, but they served a good amount of food, and it was a lot of fun.
After lunch, we made one last stop at an obsidian artisan shop. Here they talked about the importance of obsidian and the agave plant to indigenous Mexican culture. We tried locally crafted mezcal and tequila (By local crafted, I mean it came in water bottles) before we could shop for souvenirs.
I wasn’t looking for anything in particular when I spotted it. I spotted the perfect gift for my friend and roommate back home. They supported me during this time in my life when I struggling (they continue to be immensely supportive). My friend is like everyone else; they like to collect things from their travels. It just so happens they like collecting male fertility statues, not magnets or postcards. Can you blame them? Who doesn’t want to wash their hands in a friend’s kitchen and casually see a giant dong next to the knives?
I could not resist the giant obsidian dong, so I picked it up (giggling in delight, obviously) and made my purchase while all the causers in the store laughed at me. I still wonder to this day what TSA tough when they scared my carry-on luggage.
I am so happy I took my coworker’s recommendations and did this tour. Yes, I could have made it out to the Aztec temple on my own for far cheaper. Going by myself would have also given me time to see the whole temple complex, which I only got to see a quarter of. However, it was well worth the ticket price when I think about everything I got to do and see without worrying about safety or getting lost.
After resting up at my hostel for a bit, I went out with K and Z after their hike to celebrate K’s last night in Mexico City.Throughout the next several hours K, Z, and I bar hopped, having wine and cocktails along with a fantastic charcuterie board to snack on. This was a perfect end to a fantastic day in Mexico City.
Places to See
Turibus– $75 USDA – P.za de la Constitución S/N, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06010 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico – One of the meeting spots for tours is at the Zocalo it also has outher tours throughout the city including a jump on and off option day pass
Our Lade of Guadalupe Basilica – FREE – Fray Juan de Zumárraga No. 2, Villa Gustavo A. Madero, Gustavo A. Madero, 07050 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Teotihuacán – $44 Mexican Pesos – Zona Arqueológica de Teotihuacan Estacionamiento Puerta 1, State of Mexico
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