Wearing a scarlet headband and amulets, the Nahuatl shaman invoked the spirit of the “blessed creator” at dawn yesterday, as he raised an eagle-plumed staff over tens of thousands of pilgrims who had travelled to the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan to soak up the power of the equinox.
The long-abandoned site, 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, was founded early in the first millennium, and became Mexico’s most successful pre-Hispanic city-state, with a peak population of 200,000. Its religion centred on sun and moon deities, and now the love affair with the sun is enjoying a revival.
Up to one million men, women and children filed solemnly up the steps of the Temple of the Sun and the Moon throughout Saturday and Sunday; nearby the smog-wreathed capital staged its first festival in modern times to mark the arrival of spring.
A Mexico City resident, Adriana Beltran, 24, said as she trekked toward the Temple of the Sun: “You feel the good vibrations of this place and a sense of peace with yourself and the world around you.”
The massive Temple of the Sun, with its 248 steps reaching skywards, was built in about AD150 from some three million tons of brick, stone and rubble. It became the central religious centre of the classic era, which lasted for almost 500 years.
In its heyday Teotihuacan was the hub of an empire thought to stretch to Guatemala and Belize in the south. Aztec royalty from Tenochtitlan – the ancient citadel at the heart of Mexico City – believed it was the place where the ancient gods had sacrificed themselves to start the world turning.”
While the spring equinox has long been celebrated at the site, in recent years attendance has rocketed, officials say. “The massive influx of people began about 15 years ago, after a television show claimed that the equinox brought out the positive energies latent here,” the site’s archeological director, Arturo Zarate, said. “This year we are expecting between 800,000 and one million people over the course of the weekend.”
In an attempt to stagger the flood of visitors, so different to the usual weekday of several hundred tourists, access was limited to paying visitors on Saturday – the day of the equinox – while the site was thrown open to the public yesterday.
But fragile archeological gems such as the Tepantitla palace, with its delicate frescos, remained closed.