Best. Day. Ever. No. 2 Part 2: Teotihuacan, the iPhone chronicles

My second full day in Mexico City, June 16, 2018 was spent touring the two holiest places in the country: The Basilica and Shrine of the Lady of Guadalupe and the Teotihuacan ruins. Here are some photos of the Teotihuacan part of the day from my iPhone. I uploaded these photos while I was on the train from Seattle to San Jose (CA) in the second part of my vacation.

Teotihuacan is an ancient mesoAmerican civilization predating the Aztecs. Their city center is in a valley about 40 km northeast of Mexico City. Teotihuacan is known today as the site of the most significant pyramids built in pre-Columbian Americans. There are two of them: the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun, the latter being the larger of the two. Both are open to the public for climbing although you can only reach up to the first level of the Pyramid of the Moon. You also get the best view from the Pyramid of the Moon because it faces the long avenue called Avenue of the Dead.

While there are hundreds, if not thousands of tourists visiting the site everyday, the site doesn’t feel touristy at all (although there are trappings of modern day tourism). Here are some photos of the ruins that I took with my iPhone. Photos from my Sony A7 will be posted later.

Best. Day. Ever. No. 2 Part 1

Inside the Guadalupe Shrine square; in the background are two of the several chapels in the shrine
Avenue of the Dead and Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan Ruins

My second full day in Mexico City, June 16, 2018, was also spent walking, again with Urban Adventures, this time with their House of God: Shrine of Guadalupe and the Pyramids of Mexico City tour. I was incredibly fortunate to schedule this tour on this particular Saturday: I was the only one in the tour, it became my own personal private tour of two of the holiest sites in Mexico.

With Al Gomez, my Urban Adventure guide

My guide was Alfonso Gomez, another incredibly passionate and knowledgeable individual that Urban Adventure is known for so far as guides are concerned. We bonded right away because of our similar ages. As soon as he saw me in the lobby of my hotel, he said, you’re 61? I’m 63! As it turns out, he is a retired engineer enjoying his retirement as a freelance tour guide with Urban Adventures. He was very organized (he’s an engineer!) carrying with him some visuals, basically a book that he organized himself, and sometimes offered an alternative history (basically a native’s point of view) of the places we visited.

Our itinerary went this way: from the hotel, we walked to the subway to catch the train to the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe (Basilica Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe) and national shrine in the northern part of Mexico City. The shrine is a complex of several churches and chapels and other buildings and is basically considered a holy site in Mexico because this is where, it is said, that the Virgin Mary appeared several times to a native peasant named Diego.

The original image of the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe displayed inside her Basilica. This image is repeated all over Mexico (as well as Chicago).

The Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world and the world’s third most-visited sacred site. The venerated image was granted a Canonical Coronation back in the late 1800. The complex is located on a hill called Tepeyac Hill, already a holy site to the natives on which a temple of the mother goddess Tonantzin. The Spanish then destroyed this native temple and built a chapel for the Lady of Guadalupe; the area became later on, a complex with several chapels, gardens and sculptures.

Bas relief representing Diego, the Indian peasant who witnessed the apparition of the Virgin Mary

The story goes that the Virgin Mary appeared to Diego 4 times before the priests believed him. It is a long convoluted story that involves Diego’s sick uncle who also saw the Virgin and recovered, rose blooms that didn’t grow on the hill, appearance of the Virgin’s image on Diego’s cloak, the erection of a private chapel where the cloak was first kept, the erection of a larger chapel on Tepeyec hill, and the first miracle in the area of the chapel happening when a mortally wounded Indian carried before the Virgin’s image made a full and immediate recovery.

On the subway to the bus station to Teotihuacan. Mexico City’s subway is extensive and efficient.
Bus station to Teotihuacan
Favelas (slums) as seen from the bus on the way to Teotihuacan

Then, we took another subway to a bus station to take a bus to a town called San Juan Teotihuacan about 40 km (25 mi) northeast of Mexico City. The municipality is where the ancient Mesoamerican pre-Columbian city of Teotihuacan, famous for some of the colossal pyramids pre-Hispanic Mexico is known for. This is another philosophy of Urban Adventures that I like: tours embrace the philosophy of “do what locals do,” so, as much as possible, their tours include riding public transportation, to experience part of locals’ everyday lives.

Mexican countryside

After a short lunch (tamales) in the bus station and a pleasant 1 – 1 1/2 hour ride through the suburbs of Mexico City and the country-side, I experienced the most anticipated highlight of the trip: the breath-taking ancient ruins of one of the glorious civilizations of the Americas – the ruins of ancient Teotihuacan, the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas and the 6th largest city in the world during its period.

Breathtaking view of the Pyramid of the Moon, first sight from the entrance.

The civilization existed from about 250 BC and may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, pre dating the Aztecs (of Templo Mayor visited in day 1 of my trip). The site covers a total surface area of 83 square kilometres (32 sq mi) and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Avenue of the Dead and Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan Ruins

From the ruins, we then walked to the town (San Juan Teotihuacan) to drop by a private residence that had a small obsidian carving business.

Obsidian Small Business

There I was treated to three different alcoholic drinks – pulque, mezcal and tequila. Arriba, abajo, adentro! Pulque tastes like the Philippine tuba – and has similar process of extraction and fermentation, but from the maguey plant (I learned that they do have tuba in Mexico, made from palm tree sap!). I also learned that the maguey plant is treated like the tree of life – as all if not most of its parts are used for something.

Maguey plant fiber

After here, we then took a local taxi service to another private residence to finish off the day – a humble family style dinner of chicken cooked traditionally – wrapped in foil together with cactus and the skin of maguey plant that adds a great flavor.

Chicken with cactus and maguey cooked in its own juices

Altogether, I walked about 6.1 miles, 16,956 steps and climbed 32 floors on this walk.

Here are pictures of part 1 of the trip: The Basilica of Guadalupe and national shrine.