Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mexico, Old and New

The past weekend was a busy one! I spent two days with a group of 11 junior high kids, one teacher and four chaperones in their visits around Mexico City. First we went outside the city to the Aztec ruins at Teotihuacán--although these Seattlites had to make a stop at Starbucks first, on their way out of town. These were definitely the tallest pre-Columbian pyramids I´ve climbed (and my legs were a little tired the next day as proof) although the surroundings were basically flat and brown, pretty ugly compared to the Mayan or Incan sites I visited last year. They were also packed with groups of tourists! It is definitely starting to heat up here. I heard that yesterday it reached about 85 degrees! My shoulders and neck got a little burned from standing out in the open on top of the pyramids with no shade in sight. The next day there were an awful lot of pink (and darker) noses, arms, necks and backs of legs on these fair-skinned kids.
View from Pyramid of the Moon Pyramid of the Moon

We also saw the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico and in fact of all of Latin America. "La Virgencita" is often seen as a symbol of Mexico and she is revered by Mexicans. Basically, the Virgin Mary is said to have revealed herself to a peasant named Juan Diego just after the Spanish conquest, and instructed him to gather roses to present to the Bishop. When he emptied his cloak of the flowers, an image of the Virgin remained. The cloak, and the image, are remarkably (some might say miraculously) preserved despite having had acid dripped on it, having a bomb explode right next to it, not to mention the normal wear and tear of being stored or hanging in churches for more than 450 years. It is on display inside the modern Basilica, where short moving walkways conduct viewers back and forth to look at it. Worshippers come from all over Mexico, especially in December when pilgrimages are traditionally made for her Saint´s Day--I saw decorated trucks starting off their journey early in December last year in Chiapas--and the most repentant crawl the last 3 km to the basilica on their knees. I saw some of these people in the last painful steps of their journey outside the church.

Juan Diego´s cloak People movers inside the Basilica

Sunday we visited Mexico City itself...but this post is long enough as it is. Stay tuned for more.