or “Tenochtitlan”, as called by the Aztecs who settled here in the 13th Century. The Nahua people left their homes in Aztlan and set off on a pilgrimage, on instruction of a prophecy from their Sun and War God, Huitzilopotchtli. Legend states that they would build the most powerful empire in Mesoamerica if they settled where an Eagle, eating a snake, on top of a cactus was found – and so, on the island in the middle of Lake Texcoco – Tenochtitlan began.
For the ‘People of the Sun’, this legend holds strong religious meaning and is still central to culture in Mexico today – look a little closer at the coat of arms in the middle of Mexico’s flag. The Eagle represents their Sun God, the snake is Queztalcoatl and a fruit bearing, prickly pear cactus, meaning prosperity. Yet to the West, it signified the triumph of good over evil. The Spanish conquistadors used this to their advantage, both with justifying the invasion and when converting the population to Catholicism. Their biggest motivation, however, was the desire for gold.
Conquered in 1519 when emperor Moctezuma II was captured and killed, and perhaps the beginning of the race to colonise the world, the Spaniards were first here. However, the Austrians, French and USA have all taken their turn at invading and occupying Mexico City, and each colony’s influence can still be found today.
Today. A bustling melange of 22mn people, built on the bed of a sinking lake, at approx. 2,250 metres above sea level. Passionate about their traditions, modernised by capitalism and a Porfirian desire to compete (if not supercede) the grandeur of Europe, fiercely independent, hardworking and humble is the Mexico I’ve found over the past 6 months.
This melting-pot of cultures keeps me coming back for more – so much so, that I’ve been 5 times this year (so far).
Tomorrow, I’ll post (more functional than personal) tips on getting around the city, my favourite places to stay, eat, drink, dance and sightsee.