Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Return of the Aztecs

Before there was a Mexico City, there was Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire.  The capital of modern Mexico was built atop the ruins of the pre-Hispanic city, and stones from Aztec temples and palaces were used to build the Spanish colonial city.

Today, just steps away from Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral, are the excavations where archaeologists have uncovered the foundations of the Aztec main temple.

A photo-shopped image conceptualizes what the center of Mexico  City would look like if the great temple were still standing intact.

Today, when you go to the plaza adjoining the Zócalo and bordered by the side of the Cathedral and the archaeological site, you will see people (who may or may not be of pure indigenous ancestry) dressed as Aztecs and performing, for a small fee, spiritual cleansings on passersby with incense and bundles of herbs.  Others might be doing their interpretation of Aztec dances.

On Thursday, however, when I went downtown, something entirely different was going on.  There were hundreds of people dressed, with varying degrees of authenticity, as Aztecs.

Applying the finishing touches to his body paint

Even an Aztec warrior needs to keep hydrated in the noonday sun.

On the pavement of the plaza, women were arranging floral offerings.

Others were creating a replica of an Aztec painting with colored sand.

Several youths were playing the pre-Hispanic ballgame.  (No human sacrifices of the losers were reported.)

There was the incessant beat of drums.

The air was filled with the smoke of "copal", the incense used in pre-Hispanic ceremonies.

So what was the reason behind all of this festivity which I had just stumbled upon by chance?  Thursday was July 26th, the anniversary, according to tradition, of the founding of Tenochtitán, the Aztec capital, in 1325.

Shortly after noon, the ceremony began in earnest.  The participants marched around the plaza, and alternately raised their arms and then kneeled as if in supplication to the Aztec gods.

And then the dancing began.  On and on and on...

About three hours later, I returned to the plaza, and they were still dancing.

A man pays reverence before the ruins of the Aztec temple.

I can imagine that the Dominican friars of the Inquisition are turning over in their graves!


  1. Great pictures, the color is really vibrant.

    Wish I was there.

  2. I love it! I've never heard of a celebration of the founding of Tenochtitlán, but I want to be there next July 26th.

    So are you there now? Lucky devil! I hope you're well.

    Un gran abrazo,

    Kim G
    Redding, Ca
    Where the city faces destruction, but no conquest.