Opinion and Background:
It is my very biased opinion that few know, and take care of their historical sites like Mexicans. This site is no exception. These huge pyramids are well preserved and breath taking as soon as you arrive. The only down side is that without a tour group, foreigners have a tough time arriving here without a huge price hike (‘foreigner price’). The area is quite vast and takes a few hours to walk around and take in. Even though I’ve been here three times, I hadn’t noticed the small museum at the south end with original excavated masks and even human bones until the last time I went in Jan 2011. The site’s main draws are the Sun (large) and the Moon (slightly less large) Pyramids.
Teotihuacan was build from around 100 BC-250 AD and continued to thrive until around 800AD. The city grew up to a size of 125,000 people, surpassing the sizes of notable cities like London and Paris. No one really knows the true origin of the builders of these pyramids. They are often just referred to as “Teotihuacano.” Like the Aztec, the Teotihuacano people were probably a mixed race of many neighboring empires, including the Mayans. The Aztecs, opposed to popular belief, did not build this city as their empire spread in a time period far after Teotihuacan was deserted. The Aztec (which is a misleading word since The Aztec were a multicultural empire led by the “Mexica” people) center of Tenochitlan (modern day Mexico City) however, is less than 60 km away from Teotihuacan. The Aztec Empire is believed to have modeled their city on Teotihuacan.
1) Completeness and Originality (12/15): Most of the main structures are largely intact. However, the Moon Pyramid’s top has been deteriorating for almost a decade, and only in the last few years has the government barred tourists from climbing to the top. The Sun Pyramid however can still be scaled to the top and is in pristine condition.
2) Extensiveness of the Site (8.5/15): This site is quite large, and would take a good 4-5 hours to properly explore all of it.
3) Cultural Significance (14/25): The existence of this site further shows that while Afro-Eurasia was developing together through loose or tight connections, the controlling powers of the Americas also followed a similar, but independent path of rising and falling empires. Unfortunately, due to a lack of further knowledge on the builders, the true impact of this site on regional or world history is largely unknown. However, it can not be denied that the site was the capital of an Empire that directly influenced the formation and expansion of the Aztec Empire, the largest and most powerful Native American force in the New World.
4) Personal Impact (12/15): I’ve been here three times and am in awe every time.
5) Logistics (7/10): Considering that it is one of the prime jewels of Mexico’s culture, it is not very straight forward to arrive the “local” (cheap) way. Many hotels or hostels offer tours there and back for around 350 MXN (30 USD), excluding the cost of the entrance which is 52 MXN (4.50 USD). It does include a guide, but in a group of around 10-15 people. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you speak some Spanish, you can arrive by subway to “Indios Verdes” station (6 MXN round trip), and take a “Teotihuacano Bus” 24 MXN round trip [not easy to find]. You’ll have to skip the guide, but you can see at your own pace and browse the shops as much as you want.
The site itself isn’t too crowded though. There are three entrances, which distributes the crowds, with most European tourists arriving through the center where the Sun Pyramid is located (probably a marketing ploy to instill awe). Most people crowd around the Sun Pyramid because they want to climb to the top, but there are many places which are less crowded if you need a moment to get away from the throng.
6) Uniqueness (14.5/20): Pyramids have been built by people around the world for centuries. This one is distinctively Pre-Hispanic Mexican, and doesn’t look like any other around the world. However, within Mexico, there are more pyramids than anywhere else on earth.
Combined Score: 68/100
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