CDMX

CDMX

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Otomí Ceremonial Center

One of the major indigenous groups of central Mexico is the tribe known as the Otomí.  The Otomí people inhabited the highlands long before later tribes such as the Toltecs and the Aztecs arrived in the region.  They resisted conquest but their lands were eventually absorbed into the Aztec empire.  Today there are more than 300,000 Otomí-speaking people living in various states of Mexico.

On my latest trip to Mexico, Alejandro and I were driving outside of Mexico City when we saw a billboard advertising the Otomí Ceremonial Center.  Neither of us had ever heard of it, so on my last weekend in Mexico, we took an excursion to visit the place.

The ceremonial center is located in the State of Mexico.  (It's a bit confusing for foreign visitors, but within the nation of Mexico there is also a state called Mexico.)  We took the highway heading west from Mexico City toward the city of Toluca, the state capital.  Before reaching Toluca, we headed north on the bypass highway, and then took the exit for Temoaya.  Temoaya is a small town with a population of about 3000 people.  It has the highest percentage of Otomí-speaking people of any town in the country.  We continued along a country road beyond Temoaya, and at the foot of the mountains we finally reached the ceremonial center.



The center is impressive and monumental in scale, but is rather baffling.  At first glance it looks vaguely like a Pre-Hispanic archaeological site.  But its modernistic sculptures belie the fact that it is of recent construction.  Work on the center began in 1988.  There is no signage or visitors' center explaining the purpose of the site or the significance of its architectural design.  Afterwards I was able to find some information about it on the internet.  It was built as a tribute to the history and culture of the Otomí tribe, but there is scant archaeological evidence that their ancient centers looked anything like this.  The Otomí gather here on the second Sunday of each month to perform rituals, although, again, there are few records describing their Pre-Hispanic ceremonies.  There is an assembly hall here where the Otomí Supreme Council meets.  The site is a fanciful, rather bizarre creation.  I read that a portion of the James Bond film. "Licence to Kill" was filmed here.

After a long flight of steps, you come to a large statue which represents the Lord of Fire and Life.

 


Behind the statue is a wall decorated with paintings of Pre-Hispanic influence.  Beyond the wall is the assembly hall of the Supreme Council.



After more steps, you reach a huge circular plaza.  It is guarded by 45 columns which to me looked rather like a modernistic version of the statues of Easter Island.

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At the top are twelve cone shaped structures which look like stone teepees.  In the center is an abstract sculpture which is supposed to represent the sun.




 
 
 
 
 
It was an unusual and interesting excursion... another example of the countless places to see in Mexico that are off the typical tourist track.
 
 
 
 

4 comments:

  1. Wow! How interesting. Did you get the sense that there were many non-Otomí visitors? Though it doesn't look prehispanic at all (as you note), it's interesting nonetheless.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    El Granada, CA
    Where we just finished the first half of Xmas.

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    1. There were a number of visitors there... all Mexicans out for a weekend excursion, none of them appeared to be Otomi. I was the only "gringo" there.
      Saludos,
      Bill

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  2. I have never heard of this place, but it looks interesting. OTOH, I do remember the movie "Licence to Kill," and I think the outside terrace doubled as a religious retreat that masked an opium den. Or something like that.

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    1. I have never seen the movie, but according to my research, the site was used as the location of the villain's "Olympiatic Meditation Institute". Much of the movie was shot in Mexico with other scenes filmed in Mexico City and Acapulco.
      ¡Saludos!

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