Archive for July 29, 2008

The Zocalo

Posted in Frida Kahlo with tags , , , , on July 29, 2008 by xxxicana

Today I went to the center of Mexico City — which once was the center of Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire. I visited the National Palace, National Cathedral, and the Museum of the Templo Mayor (Principle Temple). Phooey . . . my camera battery gave out just as I got to the Templo Mayor. Here are some photos along with a little commentary:

National Palace

The original structure was built by Cortez over one of Montezuma’s palaces. It is now the official seat of the Mexican Government. You know that Marine song about the “Halls of Montezuma”? This is a reference to one of the times the Yankees invaded Mexico (1847) and occupied the National Palace.

One of the most famous aspects of the National Palace is the epic mural painted by Diego Rivera (he worked on it off and on between 1929 and 1951).

Frida and her sister in the mural

Diego had an affair with Frida’s younger sister Christina. In the mural Diego portrayed Frida as a comrade teaching the masses to read. Christina was painted with the glazed over eyes Diego used for women he was lusting after (the two children are Christina’s).

Here are a few other shots of the mural The images are so complex and there are so many historical figures that one practically needs a Ph.D. in Mexican history to know all the references!


One of the Aztec myths focuses on a man/deity called Quetzalcoatl who after sinning left the people going into the east and promising to return again. Many people have repeated this myth to suggest that the Aztecs prophesized the arrival of the Europeans (Quetzalcoatl was supposedly white). More recent and critical readings of this myth indicate that the myth was rescripted by the Spaniards themselves.

Trade between the Totonac and Maya

Mesoamerican peoples traded extensively . . . from what is now the US Southwest (for turquoise) to Panama (for gold). In this scene we see a Totanac noble (left) exchanging with a Maya noble (right) at the city of El Tajin (also anachronistically used in the movie “From Dusk till Dawn” . . . Don’t even get me started on this topic . . . I LOVE THIS MOVIE and it showcases one of my favorite Chicano bands “Tito and Tarantula“).

Moving on to the National Cathedral . . . . if you have ever wondered where all that gold from the New world went . . . well some of it was used to decorate the Catholic cathedral. This massive edifice took more than two centuries to complete. Some of the blocks came from the disassembled pyramids of Tenochtitlan.

Inside the cathedral there are numerous side chapels dedicated to various Santos and Altar pieces that are so ornate that it is virtually impossible to see all detail.

Another Altar

and, my favorite . . . El Sagrado Corazon de Jesus

now, this is a weird one for me . . . Catholics actually revere Jesus’ heart ALL BY ITSELF! I wear a sacred heart charm that I got at Chimayo (and I’ve been an atheist since I was 17 . . . but once a Catholic ALWAYS a Catholic). I checked on this . . . the sacred heart represents the love Jesus has for all humankind. I guess that it is a fitting symbol for me as an anthropologist.

Aztec Dancers in front of the Cathedral

It was a little strange to me to see all these people lined up to be purified by the Aztec dancers . . . double dipping probably isn’t such a bad idea.

Behind the Cathedral is Goth central . . .

Yes, Virginia, there are GOTHS in Mexico (darn, I forgot to bring my Doc Martens).

Well, that’s all for today, folks. I’ll post more tomorrow.