Arts & Culture
Ancient Artifacts: Ten Years of Tlaltecuhtli’s Terrible Reign
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As ancient artifacts go, lots of cities can dig up a few arrowheads and a stone ax. Ten years ago, Mexico City dug up a huge monolith of a goddess who eats the dead.
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The unearthing of Tlaltecuhtli, 10 years ago, was one of the most important ancient artifacts discoveries in recent years. 

Fundamental to Aztec mythology, the goddess Tlaltecuhtli gave issue to all life when she sacrificed herself. The cosmogony of the life-death cycle, include her as both corpse-eater and life-giver, such that she permeated any understanding the world as known to the Mexica people.

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The Tlaltecuhtli monolith on view in the Templo Mayor museum.

Legend holds that Tlaltecuhtli was a monster covered in eyes and mouths, on all of her extremities. Incessantly biting, the gods, Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent) and Tezcatlipoca (the Smoky Mirror) transformed themselves into great serpents and tore Tlaltecuhtli in half. The body produced all of life as we know it.  The former director of the National Museum of Anthropology (INAH), Diana Magaloni Kerpel, remarked on this mythology that:

One part [of the body] formed the sky, and the other part made the earth. Later the gods used the parts of the body to make all the things of life: her hair became trees, flowers, and herbs; her skin became meadows; her many mouths, the great rivers, and deep caves.

 

It was thus that Tlaltecuhtli was the first victim of creation, and with her, the Earth would desire more, always as part of a cycle of life and death. Somehow, her very creation had given its life such that all of creation now existed.

For all these reasons, needless to say, the goddess was very important to the Aztecs. When, ten years ago, this particular monolith was discovered at the intersection of Argentina and Guatemala streets in the city’s Historic Center, Mexican society was electrified.

Today, along with hundreds of other ancient artifacts, it’s exhibited in the vestibule of the Templo Mayor Museum  where visitors can take in its full majesty. In celebration of the decade since the discovery, INAH shared the following video that shed light on the Aztec religiosity and the culture that created this amazing work of art.

 

The Five Most Beautiful Mexico City Libraries
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For budget travelers, Mexico City libraries were always among the most attractive, free attractions to visit. Today, they're simply too inviting to pass up.
Mexico City Libraries

Chilangos may cherish their reputation for never reading, but Mexico City libraries present a very contrary picture. 
 

Though the internet makes lots more information available to lots more people, Mexico City libraries have simply not been supplanted. Charged with continually re-inventing themselves, and their places in the public imagination, one can still encounter eras gone by and great historical minds in a library as in few other places.

Knowledge, after all, belongs to everyone. Opening a book, reading it at a study, or just meeting in the silence of one these Mexico City libraries enhances concentration, and provides a welcome respite from everything going on out there in the world. 

Of all Mexico City libraries, the oldest were part of the church and one or another of its offshoot organizations. Among these was the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, founded in the 1530s and surviving today as the Biblioteca José María Lafragua. Most of these ecclesiastical libraries were not truly open to the public, and Mexico had to wait for the  National Library of Mexico, inaugurated by Benito Juárez in 1867 to enjoy the benefits of a truly public library system.

The list below is intended to let you enjoy some of that system, too. 

José Vasconcelos Library

Mexico City Libraries

Opened just ten years ago, in 2006, the Vasconcelos is visited by thousands for the sheer spectacle of its innovative design. Graced by the iconic whale from artist, Gabriel Orozco, it’s always a good library for art and visual spectacle. The facade retains something of a colonial appearance, but for sheer scale, and jaw-dropping space, the interior must be experienced.

Address: Eje 1 Norte Mosqueta S / N, Buenavista
Website 

 

UNAM Central Library 

Mexico City Libraries

We’ve written a lot about it in these pages, but the UNAM library with the Juan O’Gorman murals remains one of the most outstanding of all Mexico City libraries. As a UNESCO site with some 428,000 volumes in the collection, it’s the biggest in Mexico, but lots of folks visit just to see the facade and the surrounding grounds. 

Address: Circuito Interior S / N, Coyoacán, Ciudad Universitaria
Website

 

National Library of Mexico

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Opened by Benito Juárez in 1867, there’s still a good one million books inside, today administered by the folks from UNAM. Originally located in the San Agustín church in the city center, the current building was opened in 1979. Geometric, and massive, it’s an extraordinary place to visit.

Address: Av. Universidad 3000, Coyocacan
Website

 

Miguel Lerdo de Tejada Library

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Specializing in economic materials, this collection of some 86,350 books and 114,852 journals is administered by the Secretary of Finance and Public Credit. Founded in 1928, it’s one of the cities true public art spectacles. Inside the main nave of the old Oratory of San Felipe Neri “El Nuevo,” the baroque façade outside is just the beginning. Inside, the murals are futuristic, and not to be missed.

Address: Av. República de el Salvador 49, Centro Histórico, col. Centro Histórico

 

Library of Congress of the Union

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One of Centro’s truly outstanding historical buildings, for centuries it was the convent of the Clarisas from the 16th century. Today it’s something like a “Library of Congress” with a stunning collection of publications and artifacts, but also with a lush, deep, dark intellectual interior, that beckons from centuries past. 

Address: Tacuba 29, Centro Histórico

Photographs this page: Flickr – Creative Commons

 

 

Bad Girls of Tepito; The Photography of Anja Jensen
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The Bad Girls of Tepito, Las Cabronas, offer more than a tough image. They're the hope and the success story of one of Mexico City's most famous neighborhoods.
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German photographer, Ana Jensen, shows that Tepito’s “Bad Girls” are more than just ladies from the ‘hood. 

 

Mexico City’s Tepito neighborhood has for a millennia history offered resistance, rebellion, and hope. Tenochtitlan relegated dissidents to Tepito’s crooked alleys. The “brave neighborhood,” even hundreds of years later, is still marginalized and bent on survival. Somehow residents seem to bear that history in the very DNA.

With a reputation for violence, deprivation, and overcrowding, some of the great characters of Mexican history have come from Tepito. The cradle of Mexican boxing, in the 1970s an important literary movement emerged in Tepito, and the neighborhood has contributed as much to the culture of the city and country as have many, much wealthier places.

Among all the stories of people whose hard work is performed with an enviable dignity, there are thousands of women who carry out similar work for their families. Resident Mayra Valenzuela Rojas remarked, “In Tepito there’s a matriarchy (…) Every woman has her own story. Each of us is a spark, but together we are lighting a candle for Tepito.”

German photographer, Anja Jensen, is currently exhibiting her work in a show called “Ciudadanas-Caminamos a oscuras” (Citizens-We Walk in the Dark). Having spent months in Tepito, she’s documented the women challenging the stereotypes of the neighborhood.

Jensen was assaulted and threatened, but she was also clothed and cared for by the women who opened their stories and lives to her. The result is a series photographs, “Las Cabronas de Tepito,” (Bad Girls of Tepito) a collective portrait of the matriarchy whose fervor makes the neighborhood better and regularly improves the lives of the people living there.

The photographs will be exhibited through February 12, 2017, as part of the Mexico-Germany Dual Year, at the German Pavilion on the Plaza Rio de Janeiro, in Roma Norte.

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Photo: letraroja.com

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