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Tom’s Notes from the 2020 Mexico City Trip

Note: The MSM Central Mexico tour beat the onset of the Covid 19 Pandemic by weeks. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to enjoy the marvelous colonial history and archaeology of the Valley of Mexico without major medical issues (note: we hope to return to travelling in Mesoamerica again in the near future to appreciate and respect the cultural patrimony of this region. Tom).

Tom’s Notes: What a marvelous way to start a tour of Mexico City by visiting the very heart of the city (pun intended). Our first stop with guide Dr. William (Andy) Barnes was the Templo Mayor archeological site and Museum. Truly one of the finest museums in Mexico. We moved across the street for a guided tour of Mexico City’s Cathedral, followed by a tour of the Palacio Nacional (and its Diego Rivera Murals). On Day 3 we visited the Palacio de Belles Artes, attended the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, and visited the Franz Mayer Museum. We had a walking tour of  the neighborhood where the Colonial rulers had their homes as well. Leaving the city we left for Teotihuacan, undoubtly the most powerful in Early Classic Mesoamerica with connections, alliance and dominance of much of the region. Some of this was emphasized in two of its immediate barrios, Tetitla and Atetelco. These barrios were integral to the success of the city. The murals in these enclaves represent the iconography that were a part of the city. Atetelco had themes with military/puma or jaguar representations. Tetitla was an elite compound with fresco representations of the great Goddess of Teotihuacan, possibly represented a vegetation and fertility goddess that was a predecessor of the much later Aztec goddess Xochiquetzal (check back with Andy about the accuracy of my recollections). The following day we visited the beautiful frescoes of the “Paradise of Tlaloc” in the Tepantitla compound and the teotihuacan Mural Museum. Late that afternoon in transit to Coyoacan, we visited the imperial gardens of Texcotzingo which were designed and created by Nezahualcoyotl, the then-ruler of Texcoco, in the 15th century.  On day 8 we briefly visited the site of Tlatelolco (and the church of Santiago Tlatelolco where my wife and I were married!!). Tlatelolco was the site of the final battle of Cortez’ Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs. It was also the home for Sahagun’s Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco where he executed his scholarly work and established a school for the royal families, translators, ethnography, religion, etc. We then proceeded to the World Class Museo Nacional de Antropologia and its World Class repository of the archaeological legacy/cultural patrimony  of Mesoamerica. Andy spent the first part of the day taking us through the Aztec collection and a couple of specific artifacts that he has analyzed during his time working in Mexico.
On the following days we visited the Museo Frida Kahlo, Museo Leon Trotsky, Casa de Cortes, Casa de la Malinche, the Capilla de La Conchita and the twin homes of Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, San Juan Bautista Church, Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, and the Museo Dolores Olmedo (the repository of Diego and Frida’s estate including many of their paintings). We left the next day for Malinalco (the hilltop sanctuary of the Aztec military elite, the Eagle and Jaguar warriors. We then went into town to see the Convento Agustino de Malinalco (limited access as there was a church service in process…but we did get a frief glimpse of some of the murals). Then we spent the afternoon at the Epiclassic site of Xochicalco. This site like so many during this period functioned mush like a fortified political, commercial and spiritual center. Xochicalco is architecturally very pleasing and has a magnificent panoramic view of the valley below. The next morning we went to Chalcatzingo, an Early Formative site known for its extensive array of Olmec-style monumental art and iconography. Chalcatzingo completely outdistanced my expectations in its quality of monumental art and the immensity of the bas relif carvings. We then visited the Tepoztlan Convent and a brief stop at eh Axtec site of Tepozteco. We were unable to visit the Palacio de Cortez in Cuernavaca as it was closed for restoration work. The next morning we drove over the Paso de Cortez where he first viewed the magnificent city of Tenochtitlan in the Valley of Mexico below (another bucket list activity for me). We also encountered a very active Popocatepetl spewing ash onto the area around the peak. When we arrived in Puebla we went to the baroque Santa Maria Tonanzintla with its elaborate gold decorations. We then went to Cholula and its famous pyramid (among the largest by volume in Mesoamerica). We then visited the Museo Amparo. The following day we vistied the Museo Regional de Puebla, the Capilla del Rosario, Catedral de Puebla, Ex-convento de Huejotzingo and then the murals of Cacaxtla. The following day we left Tlaxcala to visit the site of Cantona, returning to Tlaxcala to view the Desiderio Hernandez Xochitiotzi murals and collection in the Museo Regional de Tlaxcala. Back to Mexico City for the night and flights out in the morning. This trip may have had the most intensely packed cultural history and quality of museums of any of our trips. Wonderful trip and great companionship (and endurance!!!).