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Tula & Tepotzotlán
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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Up North from Mexico City is the State of HIDALGO (Hid).

Two centers of interest : Tula and Tepotzotlán

The archaeological site of Tula (from 900 to 1200 A.D.) is located 95 km (60 miles from Mexico City) and 50 km (30 miles) north of Tepotzotlán, after passing the modern city of Tula where stands the convent built by the Franciscans in 1529 with the materials of the old Tula.
You access this site by bus from Terminal Nord (every 30 min).


The history

atlantes of TulaThe Chichimecs built their capital in Tula, the old Tollan, governed for a short time by Acatl Topiltzin. High Priest of Quetzalcóatl, this divinity, already venerated at the previous periods, was the symbol of the old culture of the highlands, science, calendar, agriculture and all the knowledge useful to the well being of the society. But he was seduced by Tezcatlipoca, a god of war, which led him to debauchery and impiety. Evicted by part of his people, he has to run away leaving his throne to kings that were fighting in order to find victims for their sacrifices (The “war flowered”).

     Right picture : atlantes of Tula

Quetzalcóatl reached the country of Dawn (East and Gulf Coast), where, according to one legend, he sacrificed himself at the stake to become the Morning Star (Venus), and according to another legend, he embarked in celestial waters promising to come back to his throne. The myth of the comeback of Quetzalcóatl had a big influence on the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. When Hernán Cortés disembarked exactly the planned day, he was welcomed as Quetzalcóatl, which made easier the beginning of the Spanish conquest. The legend and history are interconnected. The Toltecs were not a homogeneous cultural group but brought together two traditions : the old tradition, theocratic, maybe from Teotihuacán, and the new one that muscled, the one of the Chichimec warriors.
However, the Toltecs were, for the Aztecs, the symbol of the civilization, arts and science, architecture and sculpture, meaning everything that the god Quetzalcóatl taught them. The souvenir of Teotihuacán was preserved by the Toltecs.

The site

The big temple of Tula

The most important group is formed by the pyramid on which there was the temple of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, Morning Star, of which remain only the “Atlantes", shaped as celestial warriors supporting the beans of the roof of the temple, and some cylinder shaped columns in the form of snakes. The pyramid was preceded by a vast bent portico, supported by square adorned pillars.

atlantes of Tula

By the stairs going to the temple, there is a sculpture of Chac Mool and not far, the Coatepantli or Wall of the snakes, with snail shaped crenels and a fresco showing snakes eating human skeletons. You can see also the Burnt Palace (palacio Quemado), the templo Mayor and the ball game.

Left picture : atlantes of Tula


Explanation of the Morning Star

Quetzalcóatl, after his sacrifice, became Venus. This planet was visible during the morning for 236 days when it preceded the sunrise then stayed invisible for 90 days. The following 250 days, it was visible by night and vanished again for the next 8 days. Its cycle lasted 584 days; 8 solar years of 365 days, that is to say 29 200 days were the equivalent of 5 Venus years and two "centuries" of  52 solar years were the equivalent of 65 Venus years. Under its morning form, Venus was called Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, "the God of dawn”; it has the shape of a personage who dives, head first and feet towards the sky. The name of the last Aztec emperor, Cuauhtemoc, means "falling Eagle ", that is to say "the sun that was born". Under its evening form, Venus became Xolotl, "the god that died and sinks in the Occident", the bearded god of oldness.

The cult of Quetzalcóatl-Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli was a cult to rebirth and renewal, to the eternal life. This eternal life, like Venus, was born at the orient, bringing good and useful things. How confused they must have been with the Europeans arriving from the East ! And they were white, blonde like the fire and bearded !

Map of the site/town of Tula :

Open tue-sun, 10AM-06PM, $46, free for national public on sunday.

The history of the state and its capital :

sunset in Tula




     Right picture : sunset in Tula









Tepotzotlán is a charming city of 23 000 inhabitants ("pueblo mágico") located 45km, 30 miles north of the capital. It is 2km from the toll road 57 going to Querétaro.

San Francisco Javier churchDon’t miss Plaza Hidalgo, the main plaza. The most important building is the huge baroque church, Iglesia de San Francisco Javier, built in 1682. It is one of the three most beautiful examples of Churrigueresque architecture in Mexico, the other two being Santa Prisca in Taxco and La Valenciana in Guanajuato state. The church majestically overlooks the small city. Its harmonious proportions and the warm patina of its stone emphasize the four adorned columns and the statues of saints flanked on each side of the gate. It has a unique tower. Every piece of surface is covered with golden flourish: masses of cherubs welcome the visitors.
On the walls of the church, 22 paintings of Cristóbal de Villapando show the different stages of the life of St Ignace de Loyola, father of the Jesuits.
Beside the church, the Museo del Virreinato (Museum of the Vice-roi, open 9 AM-6 PM, Tue-Sun, $50), was the novitiate of the Jesuits in 1585. They studied the languages, art, theology and mathematics. The treasures gathered by the Catholic Church during the colonial time are displayed in the rooms of the museum which is under the control of the National Institute of Anthropology and History. The collections comprise numerous beautiful paintings and sculptures. Among the most unusual objects, there are relics. One of them, made in Italy, is mounted in a silver chalice with incrusted coral. The museum is also famous for owning a bone of Saint Peter.
In the center of the museum, the Room of the Virgin, dating from the early eighteenth century shows an altar under a cupola crowned with a frieze. Mirrors allow enjoying the decorated ceiling : there are the moon, the sun and the stars and numerous frolicking cherubs. In the middle of the room, the Virgin Mary, in the lantern, is surrounded by the apostles with the Holy Spirit going down them. Don’t miss the Camarin, octagonal room dedicated to the cares of the statue of the Virgin.
The Jesuits which were in charge of the church and novitiate were evicted from Spain and its colonies in 1767 because of their support to the philosophy for Lights.

    Right picture : San Francisco Javier church

Núñez de Haro, professor at the University of Avila (Spain) was nominated archbishop of Mexico in 1771 and converted the College of Tepotzotlán into the Seminario de Instrucción, Retiro Voluntario y Corrección, a kind of jail for ecclesiastics. He continues the work on the Chapel de Pocito in Guadalupe and the Cathedral of Mexico City. When the rights of the Company of Jesuits were reestablished in the early twentieth century, the Jesuits took back their possessions. The government nationalized the novitiate in 1964 and converted it into a museum.

Tepotzotlán practical

Bus company : Ómnibus de México, (55) 53 68 74 02 or 08 - many departures from 7 AM to 11 PM - www.odm.com.mx.
ETN opened its Terminal de Autobuses de Tepotzotlán : Address : Km. 42.5, Parque Industrial los Cedros, (55) 58 76 10 91 or 01 800 8000 ETN (386). It service many destinations to the north and west from Tepotzotlán.
Magic village of Tepotzotlán

Aztec dances

The village of Tepotzotlán celebrates the Day of the Dead on November 1st and 2nd like everywhere else in Mexico. It is a joyful celebration. The Mexicans celebrate death. Many offerings are given to the dead. The party is in full swing.

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