Travels with V
Avenue of the Dead, Frida & Leon
Mexico City part three
There are quite a lot of excavated ancient temples in Mexico, but the one most accessible from the metropolitan area is Teotihuacán, famous for its two pyramids the temple of the sun and the temple of the moon. Between them is a broad walkway called “the Avenue of the Dead”. The most unique about Teotihuacán i9s some of its decorations. Here are walls with painted patterns and pillars with reliefs showing feathered mythological creatures.
Teotihuacán was in its heydays between 300 – 600 AD the biggest city on the American continent, with ca 120 000 inhabitants. They had trading contacts with Tenochtitlan (that became Mexico City) and Tikal in neighbouring Guatemala. It is believed that the city met its fate in the form of a rebellion against the ruling elite around 700 AD. Teotihuacán was abandoned, and when Aztecs some hundred years later rediscovered it they were convinced that it was built by the gods.
Quite recently archeologists have made some stunning discoveries here and found tunnels running under the big pyramids. In the tunnels there were placed lots of artefacts, probably they were offerings to the gods.
There is one dramatic incident in Aztec mythology that seems central, it’s depicted on many stone reliefs. A high priestess, Coatlicue miraculously became pregnant after a ceremony with a doll. Her daughter Coyolxāuhqui was furious arguing that her mother had shamed the family. She and her 400 brothers attacked Coatlicue, who suddenly gave birth to a full grown and equipped warrior that stopped the attack and killed the brothers. Coyolxāuhqui was also killed, her body ripped apart and thrown off the palace wall. You can see the body parts on the picture below. It is believed that it should be seen as a tribute to the warrior who was uplifted and became god of war.
Back in Mexico City two quite special experiences await us in the district Coyoacán, reached by riding the Metro south. In this quiet suburban villa area queues are always long in front of a startling blue house with a lush garden.
This is Casa Azul where the world famous artist Frida Kahlo lived and worked. Her husband Diego Riviera also worked here, but Frida who was disabled by polio in her childhood didn’t share Diego’s grand gesture manifestations, she explored her emotional experiences and expressed them symbolically, often as self portraits. She found inspiration in Mexican folk art, especially from the southern province of Oaxaca. In the museum everything is preserved, from the blue-and-yellow kitchen to her studio and her day bed where her death mask is placed.
And just a few blocks away lived and died a good friend of Frida and Diego, his house is also now a museum. This was the Russian revolution leader Leo Trotsky’s house, and here an agent working for his arch-enemy Josef Stalin killed him with a pick axe. Trotsky had been a fugitive in Turkey and Norway before finding this sanctuary in Mexico City, and here he could read, write and feed his rabbits. But he was aware of the danger, the house has bricked up windows, walls with watchtowers, steel plated doors, and in the bedroom there are bullet holes from a previous murder attempt.
Speaking of revolutionaries Mexico has has had a fair share of those. In the legendary Café Havanna in Mexico City Che Guevara and the Castro brothers sat more than one night making plans for the Cuban revolution. It’s a classic old café and on the walls are photos of places we recognize.