Friday, November 4, 2011

Teotihuacan and the Day of Death

Writing this from Cuzco, Peru...adjusting to the altitude...

After arriving in Mexico City, decided to visit the ancient city of Teotihuacan, an ancient ruins that preceded the Aztecs. An UNESCO site, it had been abandoned for thousands of years, until being restored/cleaned up starting after the Mexican revolution.

Main highlights are the Avenue of the Dead,and the pyramids of the moon and sun. We heard a lot of explanations about this...surely the temples were sites of human sacrifice, but no one really knows exactly what was happening...just guesses based on other cultures in the region. The thing I got from this is the balance they tried to create and how similar this is to most other cultures...except maybe my own. They had matching sides of the avenue, temples for sun and moon, light and dark, man and woman, death and life. They viewed existence in a circular pattern, like the earth turnings from day to night and back to day again.

Contrasting this with earlier in the day when we visited an Catholic church they was built from and directly behind an ancient Aztec temple. The conquerors used the culture, the labor, the stones of the indigenous peoples to exploit them. The church was built from the stones of the city that it was built upon, by the people that had lived there and then inside, bloody images of Christ (invoking the human sacrifice), native animals such as puma and quetzal birds, etc. There is no balance here, no cycle...just a straight line. You are born and you achieve salvation in heaven. There is some balance...but the it's positive and negative...not a neutral balance like light and dark.

Which brings me to the Day of Death. We spent it during the night in the canals of Xochimilco (an Aztec construction and UNESCO) and a graveyard in this area. This is a day where Mexicans celebrate death, celebrate the balance between life and death. You can't have one without the other, so there is nothing to fear...just celebrate. Death is as much a gift as life. That is why we honor death with graves and tombs...not for mourning or grief, but respect and remembrance of a life lived.

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