Day 7 was my first day i spent mostly alone in Mexico City since K, whom I met at my hostel, went home, and Z went to Teotihuacán, where I had been the day before. I woke up early and made my way to El Zócalo and what is left of the ancient Aztec capital, Temple Mayor.
Smilingly hidden amongst the plazas, government buildings, and churches built in the heart of the Aztec capital (you know, colonialism) sits El Templo Mayor museum. After the Spanish invaded and destroyed the Aztecs, they began to tear down the temples. They reused the stones from the buildings to build the capital city of New Spain, now Mexico. What they didn’t tear down, they buried underneath the foundations of their new city. The genocide of the Indigenous populations of the Americas and the loss of their culture is often hard to comprehend till you visit someplace like the Temple Mayor, where you can see the destruction. It doesn’t help that it wasn’t until the late 70s, when an electric company hit a pre-historic monolith in El Zocalo, that excavation of the area took place in earnest. This excavation revealed much about the Aztec culture that was lost to the conquistadors.
The museum and the temple grounds are a must-do when you are in Mexico City. Walking amongst the ruins, you get a sense of both the brutality of the Aztecs and the artistry. From carved obsidian to masks to stone carvings, it is hard to imagine the Spaniards deeming the Aztecs as ‘savages’ (I hate the term). The creativity, skill, and artistry in creating these objects show that the Aztecs were an advanced society, and that’s before you look into their agricultural practices. Seeing these artifacts, first-hand gave me a whole new appreciation for the Aztecs while making the harmful effects of colonialism tangible. Reading history books does not have the same effect as seeing pictures of these impressive pieces of Aztec culture in person. I definitely gained a whole new level of appreciation for Aztec and Mexican culture, which had captivated me since my 7th-grade geography class.
While you’re in the area, I also recommend visiting the surrounding cathedrals. Going into them after discovering what was destroyed to build them will give you a better understanding of the violence the Spanish brought down upon the Aztecs. A culture that is more than the brutality emphasized in some history books. Although they were closed for remodeling during my trip, I will definitely visit them next time I’m in Mexico City.
I began walking back to my hostel in the early afternoon when my friend Z sent me a text to meet up with her and her friends for drinks and food. I spent the rest of my evening drinking mezcal and relaxing in the Roma district with great company.
Places to Go
El Temple Mayor Mueso – $$$ ? – Seminario 8, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06060 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
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