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.
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.