June 2022. Although I have been in Mexico before, the last time was in 1994-1995. Twenty-seven years later, Oriol and I are doing a classic tour of the United Mexican States, featuring Mexico City (CDMX); Palenque in Chiapas; Villahermosa in Tabasco; Uxmal, Mérida, Chichen Itza, Ek’ Balam, Valladolid, and a few cenotes (waterholes) in Yucatán and Tulum in Quintana Roo. We returned via Cancún to CDMX and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
Teotihuacan or Teotihuacán is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in a sub-valley of the Valley of Mexico, which is located in the State of Mexico, 40 kilometers or 25 miles northeast of modern-day Mexico City.
Teotihuacan is known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas.
At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the first millennium (1 AD to 500 AD), Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 or more, making it at least the sixth-largest city in the world during its epoch.
The city covered 21 km2 or 8 square miles. 80 to 90 percent of the total population of the valley resided in Teotihuacan. Apart from the pyramids, Teotihuacan is also anthropologically significant for its complex, multi-family residential compounds, the Avenue of the Dead, and its vibrant, well-preserved murals.
Additionally, Teotihuacan exported fine obsidian tools that are found throughout Mesoamerica. The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC, with major monuments continuously under construction until about 250 AD.
The city may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, but its major monuments were sacked and systematically burned around 550 AD. Its collapse might be related to the extreme weather events of 535–536, probably a volcanic winter.
Teotihuacan began as a religious center in the Mexican Highlands around the first century AD. It became the largest and most populated center in the pre-Columbian Americas. Teotihuacan was home to multi-floor apartment compounds built to accommodate the large population.
The term Teotihuacan is also used for the whole civilization and cultural complex associated with the site.
Although it is a subject of debate whether Teotihuacan was the center of a state empire, its influence throughout Mesoamerica is well documented; evidence of Teotihuacano presence is present at numerous sites in Veracruz and the Maya region.
The later Aztecs saw these magnificent ruins and claimed a common ancestry with the Teotihuacanos, modifying and adopting aspects of their culture.
The ethnicity of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan is the subject of debate. Possible candidates are the Nahua, Otomi, or Totonac ethnic groups. Other scholars have suggested that Teotihuacan was multi-ethnic, due to the discovery of cultural aspects connected to the Maya as well as Oto-Pamean people. It is clear that many different cultural groups lived in Teotihuacan during the height of its power, with migrants coming from all over, but especially from Oaxaca and the Gulf Coast.
After the collapse of Teotihuacan, central Mexico was dominated by more regional powers, notably Xochicalco and Tula.
The city and the archeological site are located in what is now the San Juan Teotihuacán municipality. The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is the most visited archeological site in Mexico.
To visit Teotihuacan, we booked an excursion with Amigo Tours. For around 40 euros per person, we had a roundtrip to the site, and an obligatory tourist shopping stop, a drinks tasting and – not included – lunch.
I’m glad we did it organised. The guided tour of the site was well worth it, for a better understanding.
When in CDMX, make time to go visit Teotihuacan.