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Sunday, 23 February 2014

MEXICO - OAXACA CITY


kEYWORDS: tourism, travel, Mexico, monuments, pyramids, food, markets, landscape, history, art, paintings, churches, cathedrals.

02/10/2008.
We left our backpacks in the room at Hostel Pochon (checkout time 11.00hrs) and went out, found a laundry and left our dirty clothes there and strolled up the street. The girl at the checkout at  hostel Pochon suggested Hostel San Mateo, a dreary place at 340 pesos per night. So we walked on and entered Calle Faustino G. Olivera no. 203. A woman was cleaning the steps and the door was open, we could see a very clean patio, with a fountain in the centre and trees and potted plants, so I said good morning and enquired if she rented rooms for travellers. The house was newly painted and looked like a private house. The lady very graciously told us to wait, went inside and a few minutes later, came back with another lady, who was the owner.

We said good morning again and were told that rooms were available for rent. So we entered the house and chose the room on the first floor, a very clean room with fresh bed clothes, two beds, bed side table lamps and a table and chair to sit on, with a potted plant, in which later I found a huge butterfly, snuggled among its leaves. Attached bath room was gleaming clean as was the whole house, inside and out.

The rate for the room was 430 pesos per night, but after talking about the world economic situation in general and the economic situation in Mexico in particular, higher prices of corn, wheat and rice in Mexico and how the tourism had caused the prices of hotel accommodation to shoot up, the rate was brought down to 350 pesos. Both parties were satisfied and we went back to hostel Pochon, took our backpacks and settled in our new lodgings. The huge butterfly had not stirred a bit. May be it was the approaching Siesta Time for the resident butterfly too.

The tourist guides describe Oaxaca as one of Mexico's beautiful and vibrant cities and this is true. A colonial city with tree shaded Central Square (EL Zocalo), its Cathedral and many churches, art galleries and even a book store selling English books. It is city to relax, to take cooking lessons and learn spanish. (The young woman running Hostel Pochon also gave cooking lessons and charged US$20.00 per lesson). Calles Alcala and Garcia Vigil, two parallel streets will take you down to the city centre and you can sit on the terrace of a Cafe or a restaurant, have fresh fruit juice, sip a cold Corono or Dos Equis, maybe  a Mojito or two ( a mojito is a traditional Mexican cocktail that consists of five ingredients: white rum, cane sugar (traditionally cane juice), lime juice, sparkling water, and mint leaves) and then  stroll further down to the muncipal markets in calle 20 de Noviembre, the date on which the Mexican revolution started.

Beginning early in the mornings, long tables are placed in the courtyards of churches and temples, on which clay jars containing fresh juices, are placed. There are the usual flavors, such as horchata (a rice and cinnamon based beverage), Jamaica (prepared with hibiscus flowers), mango, tamarind, watermelon and lemon with chia (a small seed). There are also exotic flavors such as rose petals, prickly pear and nut. Here they also sell tejate, a traditional drink prepared with cocoa and corn. The perfect complement for breakfast is egg yolk bread, prepared with egg and baked daily in traditional bakeries, and chocolate prepared with milk or water and served with a lot of foam in a clay cup.

In the market you will find women selling browned grasshoppers with garlic, lemon and salt. Don’t just take a picture of them: dare to try them! You will be surprised by their delicious flavor and crunchy texture. You should also try the tlayudas, giant tortillas with mashed beans, cheese and salsa. For dessert, there is nothing better than sherbets in flavors such as burnt milk, cheese and mescal.
 

There are two municipal  markets, in El Mercado Juarez  you will find clothes, hats, handicrafts etc, and in the other, El Mercado de Merced,  just across the street, a maze of stalls selling fresh bread and cakes, pastries and chocolates, food and spices. A separate section is just for cooked food, fried and grilled meat an sausages, green chillies and fried grass hoppers. For 50 pesos you can have a basket of 500gms grilled meat. Salads are 10 pesos each, tomatoes, onions, guacamole, cucumbers, a real delight. Fried grasshoppers with lemon, garlic and sprinkled with salt are very popular and women hawkers sell mounds of this delicacy on the streets and inside the market. Alex and me had a plate each. Crunchy and tasty. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.


Friday, 21 February 2014

MEXICO - JOURNEY TO OAXACA

Keywords: travel, tourism, monuments, mountains, history, backpacking, lakes, landscape

02/10/2008: The morning after a breakfast of fresh fruit and fruit juice an rajas, we roamed the city centre and visited its markets, there are flea markets where you will find nothing but junk, and others selling handicrafts, antic furniture, silver jewellery. Markets are full of people and has a vibrant atmosphere. I was hoping that somewhere we will hear Mariachi bands playing, but were disappointed. Then we came to the Plaza Garibaldi, the Square which was renamed in tribute to Madero, the Mexican revolutionary and liberator who fought against President Porfirio Diaz in the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1912.

This square was a section of the old Market, dedicated to pre-Hispanic pottery. Throughout the vice-royalty, it was known as Plaza del Jardin ( Garden), until some of the old marketeers settled there. The Old Market was installed in the Plaza Mayor (Zócalo) since the sixteenth century. And part of it became the flea market, where the goods brought in by the ships and  damaged in transit across the Atlantic, were sold or auctioned off as second-hand items and other articles which the  neighbours sold or exchanged there. Later the market was moved to another site and found its permanent place at the present site.Much of the Plaza has been restored from time to time,The Museum of Tequila and Mezcal, and the  school of mariachis has been established in the square.
















The bus for Oaxaca left at 13hrs, we took a taxi to the Estación Tapo, which was nearer from the hotel, than the Estación del Norte. The traffic was heavy and it took us 35 minutes to reach us, the fare was 45 pesos.Like the Station of the North, this also is a new and modern with all the facilities available for the traveller.
The journey took six hours and we reached our destination at 18hrs. After the long journey, non-stop loud music and cold air-conditioned bus, it was a hammer blow to step down from the bus in the hot temperature on the ground. We made enquiries at the Tourist Information about a suitable hostel accomodation and were told about a new hostel Nizadu (Tlf. 044-951-204-6112) which had opened that very day and had en-suite bathrooms and free pickup from the bus station. The rate for a double bedroom was US$14.50 including breakfast.  We however, chose Hostal Pochon, mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide. Some time I feel that one should follow his instinct in choosing places of lodgings and restaurants, and not be guided or misguided by guides or guide books.

Hostel Pochon was run by a young American woman, when we arrived there, we met another young woman doing the books and a Mexican man, who tried to impress us that he was running the place. All very friendly. The double bedroom with a small bathroom cost 340 pesos, the room was unmade and we took the bedsheets & covers and changed them from the soiled ones lying on the beds. The room was sparse, instead of curtains, there were bamboo blind shutters. A tiny wash basin and a trickle of water. The inevitable sign on the wall, warning us to be careful with the use of water. We had hoped that the night will be quiet but somewhere nearby, a generator was going full blast, stopping, pausing, starting again every half an hour or so and by four 0'clock in the early morning the traffic started. 

Later we went down to have breakfast. As I passed the men's toilet to go down the stairs, a very heavy stench of urine hit my nostrils, I dare say that it has not been cleaned in a very long time. There were large garbage bins lying outside the kitchen and another, standing without a lid inside the kitchen staring at us. It took away our appetite for breakfast, which consisted of three small pieces of fruit, two thin slices of bread, one egg omelet(it was omelet day we were told), cold frijoles and tea or coffee. Coffee was percolating in a pot and one had to ladle out the liquid in a cup. Imagine lading out coffee! The utensils were all of plastic, greasy (ugh)  which we washed before use  and which we had to clean again after use. The common area outside ( a patio) was untidy, uncleaned tables. And the stench from the garbage bins had already invaded the whole area. We decided to move to another hostel.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

MEXICO- The AZTEC RITUALS OF HUMAN SACRIFICES

kEYWORDS: history, Mexico, Aztec, Maya, religion, monuments, ancient rituals, travel, tourism, backpacking, landscapes, air travel.


The Aztec/Mexica believed that sacrifice to the gods was necessary to ensure the continuity of the world and the balance of the universe. They distinguished between two types of sacrifice: those involving humans and those involving animals or other offerings.
Human sacrifices included both self-sacrifice as well as the sacrifice of the lives of other human beings. For the Aztecs, human sacrifices fulfilled multiple purposes, both at the religious and socio-political level. They considered themselves the “elected” people, the people of the Sun who had been chosen by the gods to feed them and were responsible for the continuity of the world.

Human sacrifice usually involved death by heart extraction. The victims were chosen carefully according to their physical characteristics and to the gods to whom they would be sacrificed. Some gods were honoured with brave war captives, other just with slaves. Men, children and women were sacrificed. Children were especially chosen to be sacrificed to Tlaloc, the rain god. The Aztecs believed that the tears of new-born or very young children could ensure rain.

The most important place where sacrifices occurred was the Huey Teocalli, El Templo Mayor (Great Temple) of Tenochtitlan. Here a specialised priest removed the heart from the victim and the body was thrown down the steps of the pyramid, while his head was cut off and placed on the tzompantli, or skull rack.The chosen victim would be treated as a personification on earth of the god until the sacrifice took place. The preparation and purification rituals often lasted more than 1 year, and during this period the victim was took care of, fed, and honoured by servants(www.about.com).

However, not all sacrifices took place on top of the mountains.El Conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo, the discoverer of Yukatan in 1517, sailed from Cuba in search of new lands, landed on the coast of Campeachy in search of fresh water. Although they were received cordially by the natives, it soon became evident that they wanted the Spaniards to leave and Bernal Diaz and his companions saw some Indians who were coming towards them, all dressed in long white robes, their thick hair entangled and clotted with blood. These persons were priests.

There is evidence that ritual human sacrifice was prevalent in Celtic society 2,500 years ago. The ritually sacrifised their kings to honour their gods. The evidence for human sacrifice in the period of the Iron Age is most prolific in Denmark, Germany and Holland, where many bodies have been found completely preserved in peat bogs. Some were hanged or strangled, the noose still around their neck, and others were bludgeoned on the head or had their throat slit. According to Diodorus Siculus, the Gauls 'kill a man by a knife-stab in the region above the midriff, and after his fall they foretell the future by the convulsions of his limbs and the pouring of his blood'. gladiatorial games and feeding people to lions were regular sport, whilst many thousands of conquered Celts in Gaul were victims of Roman atrocities, such as cutting off their hands and feet and leaving them to die slowly(BBC-Ancient-History.co.uk).

There are many passages in Bible about the ritual human sacrifice, rape, murder and slavery and so are
 the details of the Evil of Torah. The ancient civilizations of Canaanites, Etruscans, Celts, Romans, Guals, Minoans, Carthaginians, Scythians and Chimu, all practiced rituals of  human sacrifice.   







Sunday, 16 February 2014

MEXICO- AZTEC RELIGION AND THEIR GODS

Keywords: Aztec, Maya, Pyramids, monuments, mountains, lakes, landscape, food, history, culture.

From time immemorial, man has erected shrines, temples, monuments, to honour his gods and from ancient times, these have been built in mountain caves, on mountain peaks. Perhaps man believes that one feels more near to his gods on a mountain top, on the heavenly heights than he does on the ground.

Toltecs and Aztecs in Mexico, Incas in Peru, Hindus in Hindustan (India) built  their places of worship on mountain tops. Lord Shiva "The Destroyer" among the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the Divine, is believed to live in Himalayas, and Kailash Parbat (mountain of Kailash, one of his many names) is his abode. The Pantheon of Greek Gods was Mount Olympus, Moses received his Ten Commandments at the site of the burning bush, located on Mount Horeb.

As a powerful religious symbol, the burning bush represents many things to Jews and Christians such as God's miraculous energy, sacred light, illumination, and the burning heart of purity, love and clarity. From a human standpoint, it also represents Moses' reverence and fear before the divine presence.
 
Prophet Mohammad also went to the Mountain to pray to Allah The All Merciful, because the Mountain would not come to him. This saying  has its origin in a legend about  Mohammad when asked to prove the power of  his teachings, raised a hand and ordered a nearby mountain to come to him, so that he could pray Allah The All Merciful from the the mountain top. The mountain of course, did not come and Mohammad then declared that this was proof of God's mercy, because if God had granted his wish, he Mohammad and those around him would have been crushed by the mountain. He then said he was going to the mountain to pray and thank God for his mercy.

The Japanese worship the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. The Ise Shrine located in Ise City, Honshū, Japan houses the inner shrine, Naiku dedicated to Amaterasu. Her sacred mirror, Yata no Kagami is said to be kept at this shrine as one of the Imperial Regalia of Japan. At this shrine, a ceremony known as Shikinen Sengu is held every 20 years to honor Amaterasu. The main shrine buildings are destroyed and rebuilt at a location adjacent to the site. New clothing and food is then offered to the goddess. This practice is a part of the Shinto faith and has been practised since the year 690.
The worship of Amaterasu to the exclusion of other kami has been described as "the cult of the sun"and the worship of the Sun itself.

 In the ancient Persian mythology were two powerful gods, sometimes presented as twin brothers. Ahura Mazda was the creator, a god of light, truth, and goodness. His enemy Ahriman, the spirit of darkness, lies, and evil, created only destructive things such as vermin, disease, and demons. The world was their battlefield. Although they were equally matched during this period of history, Ahura Mazda was fated to win the fight. For this reason, Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, was the supreme deity of Persian mythology. The Zoroastrians identified him with purifying fire and therefore, tended fires on towers as part of their worship.

The ancient Persian pantheon also included Mithras, a god associated with war, the sun, and law and order, who became the object of a widespread cult in the Roman empire. Anahita was a goddess of water and fertility. Verethraghna, a god of war and victory, appeared on earth in ten forms: as wind, a bull, a horse, a camel, a boar, a youth, a raven, a ram, a buck, and a man. Zoroaster reduced the role of these and other traditional deities and emphasized Ahura Mazda as supreme god. Religious scholars see this move as an early step toward monotheism. However, Ahura Mazda was said to have created seven archangels, called the Amesha Spentas, who represented truth, power, immortality, and other aspects of his being. These archangels may have taken over some features of the pre-Zoroastrian gods.
(http://www.mythencyclopedia.com).
The ancient Egyptians built their pyramids to bury their dead, like Hindus, Chinese, Japanese and other ancient people, they believed that The Soul is trans migratory and the dead will need all the amenities, food etc, and money to pay for their passage through many trans migrations. Gold was therefore, considered the most appropriate metal, since it does not tarnish like other metals and its purity was the symbol of its worth as an offering to their gods. Images of gods and deities could be found, even today, in temples and churches.

Toltecs and Aztecs built their pyramids in honour of their many deities. Among the most important were: Quetzalcoatl (Keh-tzal-coh-tal) the most powerful deity, the patron of learning & knowledge and creativity, who lived among the Aztecs and promised to return to them. He preached the people to believe in non-violence, without any human and animal sacrifice. Huitzilopochtli (Weetz-ee-loh-Pocht-lee) who led the Aztecs through their migrations and were led by him to the promised land. Tlaloc (Tlá-loc) the god of rain, agriculture and fertility. And Tonatiuh (Toh-nah-tee-uh) the sun god. He was believed to provide nourishment and  energy and needed sacrificial blood to sustain him. The sacrifice of animals and humans was not the isolated practise of the Aztecs.

 In the next blog entry I will tell about these sacrifices. Hope you all enjoy reading about these interesting facts and fables.   





Saturday, 15 February 2014

MEXICO- PYRAMIDS 0F TEOTIHUACAN - The Abode of Gods


 pyramids of the Sun & the Moon

keywords: Mexico, monuments, mountains, landscape, tourism, travel, food, culture, art, paintings, history, lakes.

1/10/2008. The day is bright and warm and we decided to visit the pyramids of Teotihuacan. But first we we had to have something to eat, Alex have had no solid food for the last three days. A short distance from the hotel, there is a shop selling fresh fruit and fruit juice and we had double servings of both, munching Jalapeñas, hot Mexican chillies. These are available free in every food and fruit selling shops, kept in bowls, sliced (rajas), on the counters. Delicious with cold refreshing fruit juice.

We took a taxi to the Estacíon del Norte (Station of the North) paid the bus  fare of 30 pesos. The station is a huge place, buses leave for all destinations in that direction and buses for Teotihuacán leave every fifteen minutes. The journey took one hour.

Teotihuacán teh--oh-tee-wah-kan "Abode  of the Gods), just 50kms north east of distrito federal, was once Meso-america's greatest city and is the number one attraction, both for Mexicans and tourists. The site of the pyramids is huge, and easily compares in its significance to the ruins of Chiapas and Yucatan. Any one who comes here, will be astonished and inspired by the architectural technology of the mighty Toltecs, to whom are attributed the construction of these pyramids, also at Cholula (Tula, their capital is 75kms. from Mexico city). The empire of Toltecs was overthrown and they mysteriously disappeared at the begining of 12th century. The famous Calender Stone of Mexico has been ascribed to Toltecs.

The area is set in a mountainous region, offshoot of the valley of Mexico (La Valle del Mexico), Teotihacán, in times long forgotten in the mist of history, was once the place pulsating with population busy with cultivation, today it is well known for its two vast pyramids, of the Sun & the Moon. The large pyramid was dedicated to Tonatiuah-The Sun.

Aztecs erected a huge stone image of their god at the top of the pyramid and placed a large disc of polished gold facing it, which reflected the rays of the rising sun. This was Mexico's biggest pre-Hispanic ancient city and Mexican empire. The ancient city, we were told, at present covers about 80 square kms, although the site of the two pyramids, which covered more than 20 square kilometres, today covers only about 2kms. of the Avenue of the Dead (Valle de Los Muertos).

The admission fee is 45 pesos and at the entrance you will find many shops selling souvenirs, artifacts, coloured cotton blankets,  Sombreros etc. If you want to buy any, this place is cheaper than the art market in the city. You will find many men selling Mexican jewelry and artifacts, figurines of clay, on the ground around the pyramids, and they sell much cheaper too. When we were there, Mexico was going through economic crisis and there were not many tourists in the country and things were very difficult for the people then.

El Palacio de Tepantitla (The Palace of Tepantitla). It took us about four hours to see both pyramids, we walked the vast grounds covering both, sat down and speculated at the might and majesty of the Aztecs. This was a site of pilgrimage of the Aztec royalty, who believed that all the gods had sacrificed themselves here, in order to start the Sun moving at the beginning of the "fifth world", which was inhibited by Aztecs.

The murals of Tepantitla  show images of Tlaloc, the Rain God and the temple priests. This residential area once called "palace" is located northwest of the archaeological site at Gate 4, located near the Pyramid of the Sun. This is a mural which has been interpreted as the paradise of Tlaloc, which according to the Aztecs, was the site of the dwelling of the lord of rain and seed/kernels, where after death, came all those who had succumbed, struck by lightning or  from dropsy, drowning or other water-related causes. 

Teotihuacan, having been a colourful city, the main deity in this mural is also colourful. The scene is framed on a red background, which is a sacred mountain or hill from which flow streams of water, into which are corn kernels, guarded by tlaloques or assistants. On top of the the painting, as a celestial figure, is the central character, Tlaloc, god of rain, who carries a huge headdress shaped as a bird with long green feathers, which sprout jets of water in which intermingle flowers and leaves. Gifts of the earth which fall from his hands, to the ground.



















Several specialists in art and iconography of ancient Mexico have come to recognise the central figure not as male but  female, which removes  Tlaloc from  the Aztec pantheon. Instead, the deity of Tepantitla now appears as one Great Mother or Mother Goddess, who may have been related to the great Aztec deity of fertility Xochiquetzal " Beautiful Flower", Mother of the Terrestrial Water.
 
 On returning to the Estacion del Norte, we booked our seats on the bus leaving next day for Oaxacan (Wah-ha-kan).









Sunday, 9 February 2014

MEXICO CITY-III HISTORICAL PLACES TO VISIT

KEYWORDS: monuments, history, travel, tourism, lakes, mountains, pyramids

CHAPULTEPEC PARK AND PALACE

El Bosque de Chapultepec (Grasshopper Hill) is Mexico City’s largest oasis and one of the loveliest places. In many locations such as Chapultepec Park ( millions of grasshoppers rubbed their wings and made the chirping sound, which resonated throughout central Mexico, and thus the name), is home to forests, lakes and several important sights and attractions, most of which are located at and near the Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s main thoroughfare.

Situated at the end of a long paved path near the main entrance to the park, is  the Monumento a los Niños Heroes (Monument of Young Heroes), one of Mexico City’s most important monuments. Built in 1952, it honours six young cadets who refused to surrender to American troops during the Battle of Chapultepec in 1847.
The path starting  from this monument, leading to the top of Chapultepec Hill, goes to the Castillo de Chapultepec, formerly an imperial palace and presidential residence. Today, Chapultepec Castle houses the country’s National History Museum, the Zoo and various museums including the most important National Museum of Anthropology. From the hill top, is laid out the the panoramic view of the Mexico City.

After visiting Chapultepec Park, you can take a leisurely stroll along the Paseo de la Reforma. It is like being in Madrid, after visiting the Museo del Prado, Los Sibeles, you  take a cool walk along the Paeo del Retiro. Several interesting Mexico City sights and attractions are located along this main boulevard including the Monumento a la Independencia ,popularly known as El Angel (The Angel) which was inaugurated by the then president of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz, to commemorate the 100 years of the Independence of Mexico. It is one of the emblematic monuments of the city and is a cultural icon and a place for festivals and national celeberations

  La Diana Cazadora (Fountain of Diana the Huntress) whose real name was The Arrow thrower of the Northern Stars "La Flechadora de las Estrellas del Norte.
The young girl who posed nude for the sculptor was called Helvia Martínez Verdayes. The bronze sculpture was elaborated from April to September 1942 and once finished, the figure of the young model, who worked without any remuneration, was immortalised and the sculpture placed in El Paseo de la Reforma, one of the beautiful avenues of the city of Mexico. Replicas of the statue were thereafter, erected in many cities in the country.




 A wide pedestrian promenade extends along the middle of the boulevard, reminding you that you may be in La Rambla in Barcelona,  making it easy to explore this area of the city on foot. On Sunday mornings the Paseo de la Reforma is closed to motorised traffic, to enable the city’s cyclists to have a free rein in the congested and polluted city.

PALACIO DE BELLAS ARTES

 Mexico City's imposing Palacio de Bellas Artes (Bellas Artes Palace), located west of the Zocalo, next to the Alameda Central Park, is a beautiful and impressive building,built of white marble. The original work, commissioned by President Porfirio Diaz, to replace the previous National Theatre, was started  by the Italian architect Adamo Boari in 1904, in order it to be finished in time to commemorate the centenary of Mexican Independence in 1910. However,  the work was stopped, first because of the swampy sub-soil, and then because of  the break of  the Mexican Revolution against longtime autocrat Porfirio Diaz (who had ordered the construction in the first place), which lasted until around 1920. At the end of the Revolution, Mexican architect, Francisco Mariscal, continued the project, and the landmark was finally inaugurated in 1934.

The Palace hosts exhibitions and theatrical performances and is the main venue of the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. It hosts visual arts, dance, music, architecture and literary events. There are two museums housed within the building: the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Museo Nacional de Arquitectura (National Architecture Museum) which occupies the top floor of the building. There are epic murals on interior walls on the first and second floors by some of Mexico's greatest artists, including Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo. 

One of the highlights of the Palace is the glass curtain in the main theatre. Designed by Mexican artist Dr. Atl, aka Gerardo Murillo, and built by Tiffany of New York, this impressive stage curtain is a stained-glass fold able panel, representing the landscape of the Valley of Mexico with its two great volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztacchihuatl.

When we visited the Palace, there was a concert going on in the theater, and next to it, in a very posh restaurant, full of people in elegant dresses, enjoying their lunch. We of course came out, crossed the street and on the opposite side, went to a restaurant atop the Sears Roebuck building. You see, it was lunch time and we were getting hungry, walking the Alameda and window shopping the busy streets.

EL TEMPLO MAYOR  



Under the city lie the ruins of the pre-Hispanic Aztec capital, once known as Tenochtitlan. At the centre of this ancient empire was the Templo Mayor, the most important religious area for the Aztecs. The discovery of thousands of objects used for religious ceremonies, figurines, masks and a giant sculpture of the goddess of the moon and a huge monolith made in her honour, was a major archaeological find. Archaeologists discovered it under the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral in the mid-1900s and excavated in the 1970s.The Spanish Conquerors destroyed the temples and built over the great temple of Tenochtitlan. 
 
 
 


Saturday, 1 February 2014

MEXICO CITY-II. EL ZOCALO AND EL CATEDRAL METROPOLITANO- THE LEGEND

kEYWORDS; Mexico, tourism, travel, backpacking, mountains, monuments, history, lakes, pyramids


El Zocalo, the city centre is also built upon subsoil, and has sunk more than 12 meters in the last 100 years or so. So has the Catedral Metropolitana, El Palacio de Bellas Artes and other ancient buildings in Alameda Central.

Spanish built their buildings with solid stone, buildings not only as dwellings and monuments, but as Citadelas, fortresses. And not only in their colonies, but at home also. Go any where in Spain, the churches and cathedrals of Málaga, Sevilla, Burgos, León, Salamanca, Santiago de Compostela, as well as in other cities, the structure is of massive stone.

On December 9, 1531, a native Mexican named Juan Diego rose before dawn to walk fifteen miles to daily Mass in what is now Mexico City. Juan lived a simple life as a weaver, farmer, and labourer. That morning, as Juan passed Tepeyac Hill, he heard music and saw a glowing cloud encircled by a rainbow. A woman's voice called him to the top of the hill. There he saw a beautiful young woman dressed like an Aztec princess. She said she was the Virgin Mary and asked Juan to tell the bishop to build a church on that site. She said, "I vividly desire that a church be built on this site, so that in it I can be present and give my love, compassion, help, and defence, for I am your most devoted mother, . . to hear your laments and to remedy all your miseries, pains, and sufferings.

The 400th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego was held in Mexico in 1931. In celebration of that event, the Church authorities decided to make a monumental painting of the brunette of Tepeyac to adorn the old greater Altar of the Cathedral of Mexico.
The image was placed in the centre of the presbytery at the greater Altar of the Cathedral, which at the time was the famous Cypress made by Hidalgo Lorenzo in 1851. The painting of the Image adorned the celebrations of the fourth centenary of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The celebration over , the painting was got down, the frame was removed , the canvas was folded up and the painting put in storage. After that its existence was completely forgotten.

Sixty years later, in the decades of the 90s of the last century, during the placement of the lights and pillars to support and strengthen the structure of the Cathedral of Mexico, father Luis Avila, then the chief Sacristan of the Cathedral grounds, was surprised with a finding that was made during the excavation works, under the altar of the present Chapel of our Lady of Zapopan, in a warehouse full of mud, among debris, he found the incredible masterpiece, the Grand canvas of the Virgin of Guadalupe de Aguirre". Currently this monumental image of La Guadaluppana, painted on a large canvas, recovered in a providential way, can be appreciated on the wall facing the Altar of forgiveness; which is located just above the Puerta del Perdón.

El Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María in Mexico City, is one of the oldest and largest Roman Catholic cathedral in the Americas and is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico. It is also built of massive solid stone, as such buildings were constructed in Spain in sixteenth and seventeenth century. The construction started on the orders of King Felipe II in 1667 but it was not completed until the beginning of the nineteenth century. In August 2013 was celebrated two hundred years of its completion.

The interior as well as exterior of the cathedral is beautiful. Near the main entrance is the image of the Lord of Poison (La imagen del Señor del Veneno) situated in the the Alter of Forgiveness ( el Altar del Perdón). Also called "black Christ", in gratitude for favours received, the faithful offer candles, flowers, and other articles for distribution to the most needy in the community. The devotees who come to mass with images and crucifixes the Christ of black complexion and feet crossed and bound with twine, to ask for all kinds of favours, in particular healing. Legend say that this image of Christ miraculously saved the life of a devotee, who was poisoned, sucking the poison through its bound feet. As the result of this miracle of absorbing the poison, the image turned black.

Those who frequent the image believe that the Lord of Poison "absorbs" their sicknesses, infections and pain. On the 19 of October of each year, the Festival of the miraculous image of El Señor de Veneno (the Lord of the poison) is celebrated with a solemn mass, which is attended by thousands of faithful devotees.

The image of the Lord of the poison is made of pulp of sugarcane by way of a very ancient indigenous technique. The image of Christ, from the 18th century, was in the chapel of the Seminary of Porta Coeli in the city of Mexico, which after being closed to the public in 1935, the image was moved to the Cathedral of Mexico.

It would seem astonishing to even imagine how the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City is situated atop the former Aztec sacred precinct near the Templo Mayor on the northern side of the Plaza de la Constitutión, and was built upon the same site where had stood the ancient Aztec capital Tenochtitlan.The Cathedral built upon a vision of Virgin Mary seen by a peasant in 1531.

MEXICO - THE AZTEC EMPIRE & ITS DESTRUCTION

Mexico, sightseeing, travel, tourism, backpacking,  monuments, cathedrals, landscape, mountains, lakes, flora.

It was not until the arrival of the Aztecs, a mysterious tribe of people who came in from the north, that the area acquired its importance.The Aztecs migrated following an ancient legend that prophesied that they would find the site for their new city in a place where they would see a mythical vision fulfilled: an eagle eating a snake while perched atop a prickly cactus(Nopal).

 Wandering from place to place, like the Jews of Israel, guided by their oracle, the Aztecs eventually came across this land, on what was then a small swampy island in Lake Tex-coco in the Valley of Mexico and in 1325, built their capital Tenochtitlan (Nahuatl name for the city) of the expanding Aztec Empire and their civilisation. The Mexican legend says that Aztecs were persuaded by their war-god Huitzilopochtli or Mexitl (from whom was derived the name Mexica or Azteca and the name adopted by its people, to settle on this swampy island.

Undeterred by the inhospitable land, they invented the chinampa system to dry the areas by dividing them in small plots, and once that achieved, they built their capital city, which stood on an artificial lagoon. The Aztec built their first temple in honour of their bloodthirsty god Huitzilopochtli, who had led them to this promised land, as Moses led the Jews of Israel. The huts were made of reeds and mud (cañas y barro) , which grew in the swampy land, and called them Xacali, which was called Jacales ( shanties of the poor peóns) by the Spaniards. Peóns were enslaved by the Spaniards to work  on their haciendas and  silver mines. Much of the early construction of huts was of caña y barro.

 At the centre of Tenochtitlan was a large walled precinct, the focus of religious activity, containing the main temples (dedicated to Huitzilopitchli, a deity of war, sun, human sacrifice and the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan, Tlaloc the Rain God, and Quetzalcoatl, the white man, the Feathered Serpent, one of the major deities of the ancient Mexican pantheon.

 Aztec and mythical Maya built stone temples, pyramids, great chambers and tombs, inscribed hieroglyphics and made artifacts. Even today the mythical civilisations of Aztec, Incas, Toltec and Maya are admired by us. The Toltec were the founders of Teotihuacan and Cholula, the historical pyramids for their worship, human and animal sacrifice, and who were termed as despotic and barbaric, uncivilised noble savages by the Spanish conquistadors.

Mexican believed that Quetzalcoatl, the "Feathered Serpent", a white man of an imposing personality and noble features, a foreigner,  who had come to live with them and taught them the religion of living simple and austere life, in which the sacrifice of humans and animals was forbidden, who after living among them for more than twenty years, promising that he would one day return, mysteriously disappeared in the direction of the Rising Sun.

This belief that he would return from the east in a One Reed year led the Aztec sovereign Montezuma II to regard the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortez and his comrades as messengers of the Sun God, welcomed them, protected them, because 1519, the year in which the Spanish landed on the Mexican  coast, was a One Reed year (Aztec calendar, dating system based on the Mayan calendar).

 Mexican were awed at the tall ships with white sails, which appeared on their horizon, men dressed in strange costumes and riding strange animals (Mexican had never seen horses before) and bulls pulling strange vehicles (gun carriages) and with superstitious reverence, fell at their feet.

Between 1519-1521 when Hernan Cortez invaded Mexico. the city of Tenochtitlan was besieged several times.  In order to create space for their cavalry to manoeuvre, the conquistadors pulled down most of the city's buildings and thus largely destroying the city. Mexico City was built on top of the ruins of the city. During the siege, the city was ravaged by small pox which was brought to the country by the Spanish and the Aztec King Cuitlahuac, died during the siege. In 1521 the last emperor Cuauhtemoc (Guatemoc) the defender of Tenochtitlan, surrendered to the Spanish invaders. Thus ended the mighty empire of the Aztec.

 In the 17th century, the Spaniards had the brilliant idea of draining the Lake but discontinued it later. In consequence, in 1629 the city of Mexico was flooded. Similar flood occurred in 1622. Many thousands poor Mexicans living in los Jacales (shanties) perished in these floods.  The whole city has been gradually sinking since then.



 


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