Mexico City◇4. The Pilgrimage

Let’s play! Today will will explore who the Aztec were and how they founded a city in a most unusual place that would become one of the largest and most beautiful city in the world.

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Aztecs were the last ones to migrate into the Valley of Mexico about 750 years ago. For the last 200 years they were on a pilgrimage. Aztec most important deity God of War and Sun Huitzilopochtli sent them in search for a site of a great city. Huitzilopochtli told that they will know the spot when they see an eagle with a snake in its beak perched atop a cactus.

God of War and Sun Huitzilopochtli
Guillermo Ceniceros Del Códice al Mural” (detail)
Tacubaya subway station

Seven original tribes left on the pilgrimage from the arid lands in the North of the valley. 200 years of wandering around is a long time! They learned along their journey: how to search for food and water, how to hunt and how to trade. They were poor if you only measure their belongings. And they did not speak the valley language when the tribes finally stumbled into it from the north.

Quest #1: Visit the Tacubaya subway station (line 1, 7, and 9). Locate mural Guillermo Ceniceros "Del Códice al Mural". It depicts the pilgrimage of the Aztec from their departure from Aztlán to their arrival in the Valley of Mexico. Can you find Huitzilopochtli? What animal represents the Earth?

The valley of Mexico supported many tribes living around the lakes at the time of Aztecs arrival. The locals continued to practice the ancient codices (painted books with mystical and spiritual laws of the world and life) of Toltecs, even though it was roughly 500 years after the collapse of the Toltec civilization and the Toltec practices were somewhat degraded.

Remember QuetzalCóatl or Feathered Serpent and his promise to return? He was part a bird and part a snake. And, what about Huitzilopochtli’s sign for showing the site of a future great city? It was an eagle with a snake in its beak. Coincidence?

Aztec watching eagle eat snake by Jesus Helguera

In the first 50 years after their arrival, Aztecs traveled through the valley, learned the local language, the ancient codices and gods of Toltecs, adapted to whatever was left from the Toltec culture, made alliances and enemies, and, finally in 1325, they fulfilled the prophecy. Aztecs witnessed an eagle with a snake in its beak perched atop a cactus. There, they settled, founding a City of Tenochtitlán. This prophecy is now immortalized in Mexico’s coat of arms and on the Mexican flag.

 Mexico’s coat of arms
Via Wikipedia Commons
the Mexican flag
via Wikipedia Commons
Quest #2: While walking around the Historic Center main square, locate a fountain that depicts the moment of the prophecy fulfillment. How many Aztecs are in the composition?
Quest #3: (Bonus) Visit the Hidalgo subway station (line 2) and the Zócalo subway station (line 2). Look for decorative panels with murals that depict the pilgrimage of the Aztec from their departure from Aztlán to their arrival in the Valley of Mexico. Can you find the Mexico's coat of arms?

A fragment of Aztec Pilgrimage by Jesús Cristóbal Flores Carmona.
Hidalgo subway station (line 2)
A fragment of of Aztec Pilgrimage by Ramón Valdiosera Berman.
Zócalo subway station (line 2)

And, remember to take at least one picture with the most important symbol of Mexico. Here is my picture. What is yours?

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