Tlatelolco ruins and Square of Three Cultures in Mexico City
When taking a trip to Teotihuacan, my favorite pyramids in Mexico, with other tourists we first stopped at Tlatelolco. To be honest it was my third visit to Mexico City and yet I did not know about this amazing pre-Colombian archaeological place until we were taken there!
Mario, our guide, explained us all the history of Tlatelolco in both Spanish and English so I listened to them both just to be sure not to miss any details.
Tlatelolco was built by the Aztecs when one group of them built Templo Mayor (now in the centre of Mexico City next to Zocalo main square) and the second group settled down and built Tlatelolco where it stands here. The main temple is said to be at least 700 years old which proves its construction by both Aztecs and Tlatelolca tribes.
Some excavations now show very well how the pre-Colombian tribe here used to cover the pyramid with a new level every 52 years. The pyramid on the left is the ”wind pyramid” and the small circular one served for offering and sacrifice.
Tlatelolco stands in the middle of what it is called nowadays as Plaza de tres culturas – Square of the Three Cultures where three cultures of Mexican history blend. The Square of the Three Cultures was completed in 1966 by the architect Mario Pani.
The pre-Colombian native tribes were the first culture to live in the area.
The second culture were the Spaniards and they tried to convert the native inhabitants into Christianity so always on top of their temples they built a church. We can see it here very well as the Catholic Templo de Santiago church was built in the 16th and 17th century on top of the Aztec pyramids. The yellow building next to the church is a monastery.
In early 2009 a mass grave with 49 human skeletons of Aztec warriors with healed broken bones, Aztec animal sacrifice and other ritual offerings together with Spanish buttons and glass were excavated in the area. They represent another evidence of both the Aztec and Spanish cultures there. Most probably the Aztecs died there when fighting against the Spanish invasion and were buried with their arms crossed in a specific Christian way by the Spaniards and not just thrown in the tombs without care like the Aztecs used to bury.
The third culture mixing here at Square of the Three Cultures is the modern mestizo one and is represented by the former office buildings of foreign ministry in the southern part of the square. The square was the place of the student protest in 1968 when the president sent troops there and around 10,000 students died.
Another modern issue that took place here in 1970 was the Tratado de Tlatelolco which was against nuclear arms by Adrian.
In 1985 the square was hit by an earthquake in which Placido Domingo’s family died and Placido himself spent there some time looking for his uncles and cousins who were found hugging each other.
This tour to Tlatelolco was part of Teotihuacan and Guadalupe tour. I took this tour with Mayaland and booked it via GetYourGuide. Check out their websites for more information. All the opinions are my own.
***It took me 4 hours to write this post.
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Very informative article! I’ve only been to Mexico once and I did not know about this place, I will now make sure I get to visit it on my next trip.
Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler
Please do, Ester 😉
Crazy sexy fun traveler
True. Cannot wait to stumble upon new places during my next visit 🙂
Crazy sexy fun traveler
Comment@ Escaping Abroad:
Agreed. Funny how after years of studying Mexico and visiting Mexico City twice I did not even heard of Tlatelolco until my third visit.
The building complex looks really cool. I am always surprised by how many things you can discover when you visit a city for a second time.
Amazing how much there is to see and do that we don’t ever know about until accidentally stumbling onto it! Tlatelolco looks like fun side trip!