Las Piramides

May 17 - 25, 2014

by Norman Bituin




My sisters Melody and Marilyn were taking a week vacation at Melody's timeshare in Cancun and they had invited us to come. Cherry and I decided to join them for five days at the Royal Cancun Resort; then fly separately to Mexico City and spend four days there. Our target in going to Cancun, which is in the state of Quintana Roo, was the Pyramid of Kukulkan (El Castillo) at Chichen Itza in the state of Yucatan, 2-3 hours away by land. The Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon were our destination in Teotihuacan near Mexico City.


A short historical background and information accompany the pictures on this travel journal.


¡Vámos a Las Piramides!



A. Chichen Itza - Kukulcan Pyramid



Chichen Itza, voted in 2007 as one of the "New 7 Wonders of the World",  was a major economic power in the northern Maya lowlands from 600–1200 AD. The Maya is a civilization noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. In mathematics, the Maya had independently developed the concept of "zero".  They produced extremely accurate astronomical observations and their charts of the movements of the moon and planets were used to predict eclipses and other celestial events. They created a multitude of kingdoms and small empires, built monumental palaces and temples, and developed an elaborate hieroglyphic writing system. The Spanish conquistadores led by General Montejo conquered the Mayan peninsula in 1588.





The Pyramid of Kukulkan, 24 meters tall with a 6 meter platform and  53 meters wide, built around 800 AD is thought to relate to the Mayan calendar. Each of the four faces incorporates a broad, steep staircase consisting of 91 steps that ascends to the top platform. The four faces with 91 steps each total 364. Counting the top platform as an additional step gives a total of 365 steps: 1 step for each day of the year. Due to the danger, signs of deterioration and graffiti, climbing the pyramid has been prohibited. In Dec. 2005, a California woman fell to her death from the 46th step when she slipped and missed the grab rope.


Temple of the Warriors and One Thousand Columns



Kukulkan is the name of the Mayan snake deity that guards the pyramid


Our tour guide said that there are only two types of weather in the Yucatan - hot and super hot. Glad it was!



The Ball Court: The Mayans would play a game very much like a cross between soccer and basketball. A hard rubber ball was used. The teams were supposed to keep the ball in play using everything but their hands, and score by putting the ball through the hoop. The Chichen Itza Ball Court measures 272 by 199 feet, about the dimensions of a football field. After the invasion of the Toltecs, the Ball Court took on a more somber note, with the losing team often being sacrificed.


Temple of  Jaguars










Passing through - on the way to Chichen Itza

The small Catholic church at the town of Valladolid


Mayan dancers perform inside the restaurant at the tour stop's lunch buffet



Cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes

groundwater underneath. Cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings.



To help in the Mayan school children fund, I had a silver pendant made with my name in Mayan hieroglyphic for $51. I now wear it.




Cancún is a city on the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It is located on the Caribbean Sea and just north of Mexico's Caribbean coast resort band known as the Riviera Maya. It is a major world-renowned tourist destination. Cancun, which recently underwent a $71 million makeover, is the most popular tourism destination in Latin America, attracting more than 12 million annual foreign and local visitors. There are some small Mayan vestiges of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization in Cancún.






From the Royal Cancun Resort past the indoor swimming pool, one walks right to the beach.



Shopping and browsing at the modern city shops and at the flea markets


Iguanas are found everywhere


This massive $15 million museum with an archeological site that took 6 years to build opened in November 2012.









B. Teotihuacan - Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon



Teotihuacan was a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city located in the Valley of Mexico, 30 miles (48 km) northeast of modern-day Mexico City. The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC and lasted until 600-700 AD and preceded the Mayans by 500 years. This city came to be the largest and most populated center in the New World. The city reached its peak in 450 AD when it was the center of a powerful culture and housed a population of more than 150,000 people. The decline of Teotihuacan has been correlated to lengthy droughts related to the climate changes of 535-536 AD. The rise and fall of Teotihuacan coincide roughly with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire beginning around 500 BC, and going into decline around 650 AD before the city was sacked, burnt, and abandoned.



                               Pyramid of the Moon                                                                        Pyramid of the Sun


Piramide de la Luna - Pyramid of the Moon

The Pyramid of the moon at Teotihuacan appears to be as tall as the Pyramid of the Sun due to the fact that it is built on higher ground. It rises to 140 feet or 43 meters and measures 426 by 511 feet or 130 by 156 meters at its base. The Pyramid's construction between 200 and 450 AD completed the bilateral symmetry of the temple complex.



It had started to rain so we bought cheap raincoats from the local vendors.


Piramide del Sol - Pyramid of the Sun

The Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan was started in 100 AD and completed in 200 AD. It measures 246 feet or 75 meters high and 738 feet or 225 meters across. The alignment of this pyramid was designed to coincide with the two days a year (May 19th and July 25th) when the Sun would be directly over the top of the pyramid at noon. The East facade directly faces the rising Sun, and the West facade directly faces the Sun as it sets.






Passing through - on the way to Teotihuacan

Tlatelolco Archeological Site


Tlatelolco is bounded by an excavated Aztec archaeological site and the 17th-century church Iglesia de Santiago.


Sadly, the site marker at the church square commemorates the massacre of 300 student protesters on

October 21, 1968, 10 days before the start of the Mexico Summer Olympics, by the army and police.



The Apparition and the Basilica de Guadalupe

The Basílica occupies the site where, on December 9, 1531, a poor Indian named Juan Diego saw a vision of a beautiful lady in a blue mantle. The local bishop, Zumarraga, was reluctant to confirm that Juan Diego had indeed seen the Virgin Mary, so he asked the peasant for evidence. Juan Diego saw the vision a second time, on December 12, and when he asked her for proof, she instructed him to collect the roses that began blooming in the rocky soil at his feet. He gathered the flowers in his cloak and returned to the bishop. When he unfurled his cloak, the flowers dropped to the ground and the image of the Virgin was miraculously emblazoned on the rough-hewn cloth. The bishop immediately ordered the building of a church on the spot, and upon its completion, the cloth with the Virgin's image was hung in a place of honor, framed in gold. The Basilica de Guadalupe is considered by many Catholics to be the holiest place in all of the Americas and it is the most visited sanctuary in Latin America. The Basilica may be the second most visited shrine in all the Catholic world, second only to St. Peter's in Rome (The Vatican).


Juan Diego, the poor Indian, to whom the Virgin Mary appeared


The New Basilica was constructed in 1974-76 because of the sinking foundation of the Old Basilica


The original image of the Virgin Mary on Juan Diego's cloak

in 1531 hangs in the New Basilica (at altar in photo above).




A view of the Old Basilica and the New Basilica from Tepeyac Hill 









Demonstration & Sales stop at Teotihuacan Artesan Store


                                      Precious stones                                                                           Colorful serapes



         Cherry enjoys the mescal and tequila-tasting shots                                    ...while Norman takes a little siesta


And as they say in Mexico when they drink up - "Arriba, abajo, al centro, adentro".

[ Glasses up, down, in the middle, inside (bottoms up/chug) ]





San Andrés Cholula is a town near Puebla. Its major tourist attraction is the archaeological area where the Great Pyramid of Cholula stands out, which has the appearance of a pyramidal hill. The south side of the pyramid has been excavated and there is a network of tunnels inside dug out by the Chololtecs, who were descended from one of the seven Aztec tribes that migrated to central Mexico. At the top of the pyramid is a Catholic church built in 1594 and is dedicated to the Virgen de los Remedios, the partron of Cholula.






Following the tour guide inside the tunnels below the Cholula Pyramid



Santuario de Virgen de los Remedios



Overlooking Cholula


Iglesia de Santa María has Spanish Moorish influence





The Spanish Crown supported the founding of Puebla in April 1531. During the French intervention in Mexico on May 5, 1862 in the Battle of Puebla, defending Mexican forces under Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French army which was considered to be the most powerful in the world at the time. Cinco de Mayo is a major annual event here. Puebla is the fourth largest city in Mexico and has the world's largest Volkswagen factory outside of Germany. Puebla City has many universities and is well known for its fine Talavera ceramics.






The streets and ambiance of Puebla, Mexico is very similar to Sevilla, Spain, as our tour guide aptly compared.  



Catedral de Puebla





Iglesia de San Francisco




Talavera Handmade Ceramics

                    Here our tour guide explains the intricacies of Talavera ceramics. An erudite gentleman, Don Fidel said his

                    father, who originally was from Florence, Italy, took him to Europe where he studied when he was a young

                    man. His knowledge of history and architecture was very impressive. He speaks Spanish, English and Italian.



Walking around Mexico City


Mexico City was created by the Mexica people, later known as the Aztecs, in 1325 as Tenochtitlan. The Spaniards led by Hernan Cortés first saw Tenochtitlán in November 1519 and practically razed the city in May 1521. Although the Spanish preserved Tenochtitlán's basic layout, they built Catholic churches over the old Aztec temples. September 16, 1810 is the event that marks the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence against Spain by Miguel Hidalgo, a Roman Catholic priest. The Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire was made on September 27, 1821, after a decade of war. Mexico City is the federal district and is the country's largest city as well as its most important political, cultural, educational and financial center. The Greater Mexico City's population is 21.2 million people and it had a GDP of US$411 billion in 2011.


We stayed 3 nights at this 4-star for $64 a night with breakfast, 2 blocks to main street Avenida Juarez.


Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) was inaugurated in 1934






Social realism paintings by Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco and David Siqueiros


Palacio Nacional (National Palace) was claimed by Hernan Cortez from Aztec Emperor Moctezuma.

It is located in the Zócalo, the main plaza or square in the heart of the historic center of Mexico City.


Also in the Zocalo, the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary was built in sections from 1573 to 1813.


We attended the Sunday mass with the Archbishop officiating.





This week all the embassies in Mexico City had exhibition/fair booths at the Zocalo main square, the Plaza de la Constitucion.







Avenida Juarez is the main street leading to the Zocalo


Statue of President Benito Juarez who defeated Napoleon,

expelled the French forces in 1867 and restored the Republic




Alameda Central Park, Mexico City's version of Parque de Retiro in Madrid








"EcoBici" is the popular bicycle sharing: free for first 45 minutes, 90 pesos (about $7) for one day





Street band and comedians lined Avenida Juarez on this early Friday evening


In Mexico, as in Spain, there is a shared heritage and historical connection which have made our visits to these countries particularly meaningful. The people are generally friendly and accommodating. In my grasping Spanish, I talked to a few of them - the resort concierge, the taxi driver, the security guard, the hotel waiters. As soon as I said - "Yo soy Filipino", they all smiled and quickly responded - "Manny Pacquiao!". I thought they genuinely liked and admired him - the Philippines' goodwill ambassador in a way. The security guard threw a right jab and a left cross in the air and declared that Pacquiao is even greater than Ali because he was the champion in eight divisions. That is debatable, but I replied anyway - "Claro que si, amigo." 


¡Hasta la proxima vez, Mexico!




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