Saturday, January 20, 2007

Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor, Mexico City, 1/16/2007

Mexico City Centro is today where it has been for a long time. The central plaza, the mammoth Catedral Metropolitana, and the surrounding colonial buildings are all atop the ruins of the ancient Aztec city, Tenochtitlan. In typical Catholic conquistador style, the Catedral was built over and along side the religious center of Tenochtitlan, the Templo Mayor. And what was not built over, was covered in a giant trash heap for a few hundred years. The Templo Mayor had dual shrines to the deities Huitzilopochtli (god of war and sun), and Tlaloc (god of water and fertility). It was amazing to walk through a section of this place that was the sacred center of a city of 200,000 people, and a culture of legend. It was also depressing, infuriating, and embarrassing. The most sacred and exclusive shrine, one open only to nobility and priests, is the House of the Eagles. The House of the Eagles was complex, rich with carvings, and paintings, and definitely had a vibe of too sacred to be just walking through. As we stepped into the House of the Eagles, an act that felt wrong, the street market directly on the other side of the archaeological area fence was playing loud American music, smelled of diesel exhaust and garbage, and had a loudspeaker playing really offensive Nazi rhetoric (in English) over the street. No, really! It was such a harsh reminder of the fall of an empire, the continuing disrespect of a shared cultural history and a highly sacred space, that is still being fed by an imperialistic Catholic and European value system.

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