My Conversation with Tenochtitlan: Back in time to the Aztec Empire

Have you ever truly felt a place, felt the core emotion that the place carries and tried to listen to what it has to say, the vast repertoire of knowledge that is contained within the walls, the atmosphere and the overall ambiance of a place? It is certainly a revelatory experience to be able to tap into the underlying current of knowledge that is present in a place with a rich historical heritage of cultural upheaval or dissonance that has occurred through the ages in that particular place where you stand. Who knows what mysteries lie between and behind each scar, each relief, each symbol and each brick that has been laid out in a place, especially a historically relevant place of heritage, each element in the vicinity or body of the site acting as a portal to go back in time and uncover the events that occurred at the place.

There are some instances in history which may have had such a huge impact on the cultural continuum of a place or a civilization that the remnants of the events can even be felt today. Imagine, being in the center of the ruins of the capital city of Tenochtitlan in present-day Mexico city, where the Aztec empire rose to power thousands of years ago and fell into the depths of decadence soon after at the hands of Spanish conquistadors. This is a story of a civilization that had some irrevocably violent instances ingrained in the very culture and the historical unfolding of the events in the place itself. As you walk through the ruins of the city towards the main pyramid, also known as the Templo Mayor, which is a large Aztec pyramid that stands tall in the heat of the Mexican morning, the sky interspersed with thick clouds in intervals as they contribute towards periodic instances of clouded darkness and bright sunlight, much like the history of the place.

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The Aztecs were a powerful civilization that rose to heights of power by taking innovative strides in architecture, agriculture and city planning. The Aztec pyramids are renowned for their immense scale of construction as well as the large degree of craftsmanship and intricacy of the sculptures and reliefs that line the walls of the pyramids. As you walk towards the pyramid a thick patch of clouds cover the sun and you start to reel from an intense awareness of the atmosphere around you. You can almost feel a sense of immense sadness hanging in the air, like a large blanket. The feeling is so strong that you can almost touch the sadness and dread in the air, feeling its dry and hollow nature as it caresses you in a bitter embrace. As you reach the steps of the pyramid, you touch a part of the structure that is slightly darker as compared to the rest, almost as if a liquid had been spilled there many years ago. You are immediately transported back to a midday afternoon setting in the Aztec era, where a body falls down the steps and leaves a trace of blood exactly where you had touched the structure. The corpse has a huge hole in the center of its chest cavity as a gaping and bloody abyss looks back at you. The horror of the sight is interspersed with a loud scream from the top of the pyramid as an Aztec priest stands atop the altar, covered in blood and holding a still-beating heart in his hands.

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The Aztecs revered human sacrifice and considered it as important as we consider money in today’s age. Even though the remembrance of this seemed pretty saddening, the real impact of the place is attributed to the immense genocide which 490 Spanish conquistadors perpetrated onto an entire civilization. The Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire caused such a huge impact on the culture of the Mexicans that several oodles of cultural information and heritage were lost in the process, an element of understanding and knowledge that stills seems to be hanging in the atmosphere of Mexico, the brooding sadness of a bloody and horrendous past.

Tripped Out Fact: According to author and researcher, Graham Hancock, the Spanish were a profoundly violent people. They singlehandedly helped in reducing the population of the entire Mexica from 30 million to 1 million in a span of 40 years. That is the scale of the genocide that they had perpetrated in the region.

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As the guide continues talking about the immense ways in which the course of history of Mexico, which was rich in diversity and belief, was completely changed through conquest and genocide in the early annals of their cultural history. As you walk through the city, the pail of sadness still hanging in the air, somber and apparent, a unrelenting thought attacks you persistence, “Is the effect that the place is imbuing into me a product of my reading up on the history of the place, or is the cultural integrity of the place and the people actually affected to such a large degree by the events that transpired here that it can actually be felt by someone who has no recollection of the events whatsoever?”

What we need to understand is that history is all around us, staring us in the face. The culture that we are a part of, the way we live, the way we look at life in general, is affected considerably by the way in which our cultural history and heritage have been shaped and hammered into the form that it is prevalent and followed in today. A place is imprinted with the events that it has seen and the civilizations that made it a home. If we learn to listen to a place, who knows what it could reveal to us?

Image Sources: [1], [2], [3]

About Ashwin Ramesh

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