Thursday, April 4, 2013

Teotihuacán - Las Pirámides y Mayan Futbol

The Pyramids

From a very cosy campsite in the middle of Teotihuacán, we set off early to find a taxi to take us to the pyramids. It’s easter weekend and we know it is going to get very busy and quite hot later in the day so we wanted to beat the rush. It was a good decision as, in the cool of the morning, we were able to enjoy the amazing spectacle of thirteen pyramids, two very large and the others much less imposing.

Pyramid of the Sun
The  name “Teotihuacán” supposedly means “the place where men become gods” and it is easy to imagine that this would have been an extraordinary place in its prime, with the paintings fresh, the carvings and statues intact and the busy lives of thousands of people going about their daily business, or celebrating great events with, singing, dancing, football matches and the odd sacrifice or two. It was the first great civilisation of central Mexico dating back to about 100AD and stretching from central Mexico to El Salvador. 

The site is dominated by the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon surrounded by broad avenues flanked by palaces and temples. Much of the    decorative stone work has been removed, some of it finding its way into the Museo Nacional de Anthropología in Mexico City. Eventually the city was abandoned in the 8th century with evidence that it was burned and plundered. 

Pyramid of the Moon

On top of the moon

The good life in paraíso - paradise...

Mayan Foot (actually arms and hips) ball

Pre-game entertainment
As part of the Semana Santa celebrations, a traditional mayan ball game - Juego de Pelota - was held in the central square. The match was preceded by some energetic ranchero dancing and some more contemporary jazz. The audience was very local, and the vibe warm and welcoming. I dont know how many versions of "Paloma" I’ve now heard, but the special settings in which they have all been sung, from down and out street buskers to tonight's talented jazz singer, have all managed to send shivers down my spine. 

The football was spectacular, both for the costumes and ceremonies that accompanied the game and for the spectacle of the contest, the second half of which was conducted with a flaming hoop through which the teams attempted to pass a flaming ball, hitting it only with their upper arms, hips and chest, with great roars from the crowd whenever a goal (?) was scored. 
..followed by more traditional ceremonies...

And then the game begins...
... first with a normal ball...

...and then with a flaming one!
The game dates back to around 1400 AD and seems to be steeped in religious significance. Matches could be formal spectacles on huge stone arenas culminating in human sacrifices. Much of the art depicting the game showed severed heads - presumably the losing side! Also, anyone breaking the "rules of the sun" was decapitated - good incentives to play well!

The impassioned speeches afterwards from the performers were also inspiring, emphasizing the importance of their traditions whilst also celebrating the new Mexico - then the politicians had their go and it got very boring very quickly, so we retired to bed.

No comments:

Post a Comment