Culture

Ancient Mesoamerican Culture Comes Alive At These Top 10 Pyramids Across Mexico

Mexico’s pre-Columbian civilizations—the Olmecs, Mixtecs, Toltecs, Zapotecs, Aztecs (or Mexica), Maya, and others—can be hard to keep straight, but they all shared a few common traits. Most of their archaeological sites include ball courts, they considered corn an essential crop, and they all built pyramids. 

Sadly, the pyramids in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan are long gone, but dozens of others throughout Mexico still stand. The following 10 sites, which were constructed over roughly two millennia (from around 900 B.C.E. to about 1000 C.E.), are among the most spectacular and culturally important in the country. Many are even located near Mexico’s major destinations, making it easy for visitors to spend a day exploring the country’s ancient past.

La Iglesia and El Castillo, Coba

The ancient Maya city of Coba, which peaked between 800 and 1100 C.E., is home to two impressive pyramids—the Iglesia and the Castillo (the second largest pyramid on the Yucatán peninsula). Half-ruined and covered in plants, both structures look as if they’ve recently been unearthed, creating a mysterious, almost magical atmosphere.

Getting There: Coba is just over two hours by car from Cancún and 45 minutes from Tulum. If you’d rather not drive, many tour operators offer excursions.

Castillo de Kukulcán, Chichén Itzá

The Castillo de Kukulcán, with its nine stepped platforms, is the centerpiece of Chichén Itzá, a Maya city that flourished from around 700 to 900 C.E. The pyramid functioned as an enormous calendar and was designed so that, on the equinoxes, the play of sunlight and shadow would create the illusion of a snake descending to earth. While visitors are no longer allowed to climb the steps or access the Temple of Kukulcán at the top of the pyramid, they can tour other ball courts, temples, and palaces throughout Chichén Itzá. 

Getting There: Given that it’s halfway between Cancún and Mérida, this UNESCO World Heritage site is often crowded with tourists and vendors. The plus is that you can experience Chichén Itzá as it was during its peak—a bustling city.

Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal

The Maya were never centralized in one capital, as were the Aztecs and the Toltecs. Instead, the civilization resembled ancient Greece, with competing, independent city-states that shared a language and religious beliefs even as they developed different styles of architecture and their own distinct characters. The contrast between Chichén Itzá and Uxmal is impossible to miss. The structures at Uxmal, including the Pyramid of the Magician, were built in the Puuc style, with highly stylized motifs and a decorative richness not typical of other Maya cities. 

Getting There: A drive of about 70 minutes, on two well-maintained highways, will take you from modern Mérida to ancient Uxmal.

Pyramid of the Inscriptions, Palenque

The buildings at Palenque, in the state of Chiapas, are impressive less for their size than for the elegance of their design. The 89-foot-high Pyramid of the Inscriptions is topped by a temple with piers covered in Maya hieroglyphs—hence the “inscriptions” in its name. Archaeologists estimate that only 10 percent of Palenque has been excavated and other wonders are surely waiting to be unearthed. 

Getting There: With the opening of the Palenque airport in 2014, it’s become easy to visit this once remote site. Interjet offers twice-weekly flights (on Wednesdays and Saturdays) from Mexico City.

Great Pyramid of La Venta

Located in the state of Tabasco, La Venta is home to Mexico’s oldest known pyramid, built around 900 B.C.E. The structure isn’t particularly tall at 100 feet and, since it was built of clay instead of stone, its original rectangular shape has been softened by the ages, making it appear more like a rounded hill. Still, it’s fascinating to behold, as is the sophisticated urban planning of La Venta, which served as a forerunner to Teotihuacan, Tula, and other ancient capitals. 

Getting There: You have to work to visit La Venta. The site is located in a wet, humid corner of Mexico about 90 minutes by car from Villahermosa, which is already off the beaten path. Bring insect repellent.

Monte Albán Pyramids

Situated along the Pacific, the state of Oaxaca was, and still is, the center of the Zapotec people. Monte Albán served as the capital for more than a millennium, from around 500 B.C.E. to 800 C.E., and traded frequently with Teotihuacan—another Mesoamerican city with a similarly large ceremonial center. Today, visitors can explore the site’s “truncated” pyramids, which look like raised platforms topped by temples, as well as several famous tombs and stone carvings. 

Getting There: Sitting five miles from the city center of Oaxaca, Monte Albán is easy to reach by bus or taxi.

Pyramid of the Niches, El Tajin

In the state of Veracruz, El Tajin is one of the most important sites from the so-called epiclassic (or late classic) period, dating from around 900 C.E. The city’s residents were avid ballplayers—more than 60 ball courts have been excavated here. You’ll also see one of Mexico’s most unusual buildings, the Pyramid of the Niches. The relatively short pyramid, 59 feet high, consists of six platforms, each lined with carved niches that were most likely used to track the days of the year.

Getting There: El Tajin is pretty remote, but if your travels take you to Veracruz, it’s a four-hour drive to the site.

Great Pyramid of Cholula

The largest pyramid in the world (in terms of volume) is not in Egypt, but outside the city of Puebla. Upon first glance, however, the Great Pyramid of Cholula looks like something else entirely, covered in vegetation and topped with a 16th-century church constructed by the Spanish. Visitors can access some of the restored sections of the pyramid, then explore the nearly five miles of tunnels excavated by archeologists throughout the surrounding ancient city. 

Getting There: Cholula is four miles outside of Puebla, which is famous for its colonial buildings, cuisine, and the recently opened International Museum of the Baroque.

Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan, which flourished from roughly 100 B.C.E. to 550 C.E., was one of the most influential cities in Mesoamerica, with a population of nearly 200,000 at its peak. Dominated by the enormous Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, and a citadel, which sit along the 2.5-mile-long Avenue of the Dead, the site awed even the Aztecs, who wondered what vanished civilization could have created such a monumental city. 

Getting There: Located an hour north of Mexico City, Teotihuacan is a popular day trip (visit midweek for smaller crowds). Many tours stop en route at the Basilica of Guadalupe for a glimpse into another aspect of Mexican culture.

Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, Tula

The Toltecs stepped into the vacuum created by the fall of Teotihuacan, establishing their capital at Tula (or Tollan), which reached its peak between 950 and 1150 C.E. The most impressive structure here is the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, fronted by a colonnade and topped by imposing, 13-foot-tall statues of Toltec warriors, but you’ll also want to explore the vast ceremonial plaza, the palace, and the ball courts. 

Getting There: Tula is another easy day trip from either Mexico City (roughly 90 minutes by car) or the colonial city of Querétaro (just under 2 hours).

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Another International Brand Has Been Accused Of Copying Indigenous Mexican Designs

Entertainment

Another International Brand Has Been Accused Of Copying Indigenous Mexican Designs

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

Although it comes as no surprise, it’s still as frustrating as ever that an international fashion brand has ripped off traditional designs of Indigenous cultures. This time, it’s an Australian label that appears to have copied the designs of Mexico’s Mazatec community.

Although the company has already pulled the allegedly copied dress, the damage appears to have been done as many are rightfully outraged at their blatant plagiarism.

Australia’s Zimmermann brand has been accused of copying designs from Mexico’s Indigenous community.

Mazatec people from the Mexican state of Oaxaca have expressed their outrage over yet another attack on their traditions. They claim that an Australian company – Zimmermann – has copied a Mazatec huipil design to make its own tunic dress. The dress, which was part of the company’s 2021 Resort collection and retailed for USD $850, has since been pulled from the company’s website due to the criticism.

Zimmermann is an Australian fashion house that has stores across the U.S., England, France, and Italy. While the huipil is a loose-fitting tunic commonly worn by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women across Mexico.

It’s hard to argue that the brand didn’t deliberately copy the Oaxacan design.

Credit: Francoise CAVAZZANA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

When you look at the Zimmermann tunic dress alongside a traditional huipil, it’s hard not to see the resemblance. The cut of the Zimmermann dress, the birds and flowers embroidered on it and its colors all resemble a traditional Mazatec huipil. 

Changes made to the original design – the Zimmermann dress sits above the knees and unlike a huipil is not intended to be worn with pants or a skirt – are disrespectful of the Mazatac culture and world view.

The Oaxaca Institute of Crafts also condemned Zimmermann and called on the brand to clarify the origin of its design.

For their part, Zimmermann has pulled the dress and issued an apology.

Zimmermann subsequently issued a statement on social media, acknowledging that the tunic dress was inspired by huipiles from Oaxaca

“Zimmermann acknowledges that the paneled tunic dress from our current Swim collection was inspired by what we now understand to be a traditional garment from the Oaxaca region in Mexico,” it said.

“We apologize for the usage without appropriate credit to the cultural owners of this form of dress and for the offense this has caused. Although the error was unintentional, when it was brought to our attention today, the item was immediately withdrawn from all Zimmermann stores and our website. We have taken steps to ensure this does not happen again in future.”

However, it’s far from the first time that an international brand has profited off of Indigenous designs.

Unfortunately, international fashion companies ripping off traditional garments and designs – especially those of Indigenous cultures – is far too common. Several major companies have been accused of plagiarism within the last year.

In fact, the problem has become so widespread that Mexico created a government task force to help find and denounce similar plagiarism in the future. Among the other designers/brands that have been denounced for the practice are Isabel Marant, Carolina Herrera, Mango and Pippa Holt.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

The President Of Mexico Has Tested Positive For Covid-19 After A Year Of Downplaying The Virus

Things That Matter

The President Of Mexico Has Tested Positive For Covid-19 After A Year Of Downplaying The Virus

Hector Villas / Getty Images

Since the very beginning of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has largely downplayed the severity of the crisis. Despite record-setting deaths across Mexico, the president continued to hold large rallies, rarely uses face masks and continues to be very hands on with his supporters. Many of his detractors grouped him in with Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jaír Bolsonaro in his poor response to the pandemic.

Mexico’s President AMLO has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing light symptoms.

In a tweet on Sunday evening, AMLO revealed that he had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. From his official Twitter account, he said his symptoms were mild and that he was receiving medical treatment.

“I regret to inform you that I have contracted Covid-19. The symptoms are mild, but I am already receiving medical treatment. As always, I am optimistic. We will move forward,” Lopez Obrador wrote.

Despite his diagnosis, the president plans to continue business as usual. He plans to continue with his duties from the Palacio Nacional, which include conducting a planned phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the topic of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine Monday. He added on Twitter, that “I will be conducting all public affairs from the National Palace. For example, tomorrow I will take a call from President Vladimir Putin, because irrespective of friendly relationships, there is a possibility that they will send us the Sputnik V vaccine.”

AMLO has taken a very hands off approach to his country’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

AMLO, 67-years-old, has rarely been seen wearing a mask and continued to travel extensively across the country aboard commercial flights – putting both his health and those around him at risk.

He has also resisted locking down the economy, noting the devastating effect it would have on so many Mexicans who live day to day. And because of that, Mexico has one of the highest death rates in the world. Early in the pandemic, asked how he was protecting Mexico, AMLO removed two religious amulets from his wallet and proudly showed them off.

“The protective shield is the ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’” AMLO said, reading off the inscription on the amulet, “Stop, enemy, for the Heart of Jesus is with me.”

In November, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, urged Mexico’s leaders be serious about the coronavirus and set examples for its citizens, saying that “Mexico is in bad shape” with the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Mexico continues to experience the worst effects yet of the global health crisis.

Credit: Ismael Rosas / Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Thanks to a lack of national leadership, Mexico is one of the 17 countries that has reported more than one million cases of Covid-19. Since early October, newly confirmed cases and deaths have been reaching record levels, with recent daily numbers some of the highest since the beginning the pandemic.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Mexico has recorded at least 1,752,347 Covid-19 cases and 149,084 people have died from the virus in the country.

In hardest-hit Mexico City, nearly 30 public hospitals report they have reached 100% percent capacity, and many others are approaching that mark. The city’s Mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, has urged residents to not go out unless absolutely necessary. In December, Mexico City and the state of Mexico were placed into “red level,” the highest measure on the country’s stoplight alert system for Covid-19 restrictions. The tighter measures included the closure of indoor dining, with only essential sectors like transport, energy, health and construction remaining open.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com