Thursday, December 13, 2018

Aztec Coins

No, the Aztecs did not have coinage (their main form of currency was the cacao bean), but the coins of modern Mexico are replete with symbolism taken from the famous Aztec Sun Stone.  

Alejandro sent me a video detailing the use of Aztec motifs on their coins.  The video is in Spanish, so I will give you the information here in English, along with pictures that I found of the Mexican coins.

We will start with the 10 peso coin...

On the back of the coin you see the circle of the sun which appears in the center of the Aztec Sun Stone.  There you see the sun god, Tonatiuh.  His tongue is in the form of a sacrificial knife because he is thirsty for the human blood which gives him the strength to be reborn each morning.

Next, the 5 peso coin...

Along the outer edge of the back of the coin is the 'Xiuhcóatl", the serpent ring, which also appears on the Sun Stone.

The 2 peso coin...

Along the edge of this coin are 10 of the 20 symbols used for the days which make up an Aztec month.  (There were 18 months.  18 x 20 = 360 + 5 unlucky days at the end of the year = 365)  The twenty symbols appear in a ring on the Sun Stone, and for this reason the sculpture is mistakenly referred to as the Aztec Calendar Stone.

The day symbols which are shown on the coin are (beginning at the top)…
Xochitl - flower
Tecpatl - flint
Ollin - movement
Cuauhtli - eagle
Océlotl - jaguar
Atl - water
Acatl - reed
Miquiztli - death
Cóatl - serpent
Calli - house

Finally, the 1 peso coin...

Around the edge is the "quincunce", the ring of shining, which represents the rays of the sun.  It also represents the cardinal points of the compass, and those points also represent the thorns with which Aztec priests would perform bloodletting ceremonies upon themselves.

So, if you have some Mexican coins, take a close look and observe the symbolism of the Aztecs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Choo Choo

Near the center of my hometown of Olmsted Falls, Ohio, is the old train station.  It was built in 1877 and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Although the Amtrak trains between New York and Chicago still pass by, little Olmsted Falls no longer has passenger train service.  For many years the property has belonged to a local model train club.

Each year the club holds an open house, and the public gets to see their collection of model train displays.  Last weekend I went to the open house.

The little station is crammed with displays, with scores of trains of different gauges.  The locomotives run through recreations of cities, towns and countryside.  I find these highly detailed settings as fascinating as the trains themselves.

It was a fun visit, and it made me think about the old Lionel train set I got from my grandfather for Christmas when I was a kid.  It's still up in the attic.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

More from the Zócalo

In my last entry, I posted an aerial picture of Mexico City's main plaza, the Zócalo, decorated with poinsettias for the holiday season.  My friend Alejandro found a couple Instagram photos from a fellow by the name of Joe Ochoa.  These were taken at ground level.  Although you cannot see the design which the flowers form, the thousands of poinsettias create an impressive Christmas display.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Floral Display

Alejandro sent me a photo which was sent to him by someone else.  It is an aerial view of Mexico City's main plaza, the Zócalo, as it appears during this holiday season.

In past years, much of the vast plaza has been filled with a large ice-skating rink.  It was free to the public, and certainly a cool experience for the capital's residents.  However it was an ugly structure which detracted from the vistas in Mexico's City's historic center.  This year the skating rink has been placed in a different location near the Monument to the Revolution, and a floral display with thousands of poinsettias has been placed on the Zócalo.   (The poinsettia, a flower native to Mexico, is called the "flor de Nochebuena" in Spanish... the Christmas Eve flower.  It was introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. diplomat to Mexico.)

It appears that the design is an Aztec motif of an eagle, a bird which was sacred to the Aztecs, and which is today on the coat of arms and the flag of Mexico.  I suspect that when you are standing on the plaza, you cannot appreciate the image that has been created with the flowers.  However, the enormous quantity of poinsettias is surely an impressive sight and a big improvement over the unsightly skating rink that used to be there.  

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Looking a Lot Like Christmas

I live in the Cleveland suburb of Olmsted Falls, but just down the street from me is the border of the neighboring town of Berea.  I consider myself a resident of Berea as much as Olmsted Falls.  My parents and grandparents lived in Berea, I do most of my shopping in Berea, and I graduated from Berea High School and from Baldwin Wallace College which is in Berea.

Being a college town and a place with a long history, Berea has a much different atmosphere than the typical "cookie cutter" suburb.  Unfortunately, back in the 1970s when "urban renewal" was the big thing, much of its old downtown was torn down for newer buildings.  But instead of a "town square", Berea still has the distinctive "Triangle" that it has had since the 1800s.

During the Christmas season, the "Triangle" is always nicely decorated with lights.  Last night I drove over there to take a few pictures.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Revealing the Christmas Card

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that each year I paint a picture which I use as my Christmas card.  The painting is usually based on a photo which I have taken during the course of the year on one of my trips.  I sent my cards out the day after Thanksgiving.  By now I believe that everyone has received theirs (even my cousins and friends in Europe), so I will present to you now the holiday card for 2018 ...

Last August Alejandro and I took an excursion from Mexico City to Jalapa, the capital of the state of Veracruz.  We visited the nearby town of Coatepec, which is the center of one of Mexico's major coffee growing regions.  The painting shows the Church of San Jerónimo which faces the town square of Coatepec.

¡Feliz Navidad!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Rare Sight

Today Alejandro sent me a couple photos and a video which he took from the roof of his house.  I have NEVER seen this from his house... the two snow-covered volcanoes, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl.  If you speak Spanish you will understand Alejandro's brief commentary on the video.