A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
"Ventanas Arqueológicas" offer a unique glimpse into Mexico City's ancient heart
As a child I was taught that Mexico City was built atop the remains of the ancient Mexica (Aztec) capital of Tenochtitlán. Along with my multiplication tables, I dutifully learned about Cuauhtémoc, the last Mexica tlatoani (ruler), who led the final resistance to the invading Spaniards in 1521. But for most of the city's almost 20 million inhabitants going about their daily business like me, the past is far removed from current life. The downtown area is made up of splendid but rapidly decaying colonial buildings, covered in equal parts by the patina of centuries and the filth of smog and neglect. Streets and sidewalks are obscured from view by legions of vendors who peddle everything from toys, to sneakers, to pirated CDs, many smuggled from China. There is little to suggest what the city may have looked like in the days when Aztec poets wrote about its grandeur. But an innovative program called Ventanas Arqueológicas (Archaeological Windows) is bridging the gap between past and present by allowing visitors into many previously inaccessible or forgotten archaeological sites.
Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH), the national authority in charge of Mexico's cultural and historical patrimony, has created a twice-monthly tour, blending several previously visible sites with more recently excavated ones that, contrary to normal practice, were not filled in. For the many people who live in the city and have known its contemporary face for decades, and for first-time visitors attracted to its rich cultural offerings, looking through these windows is a unique opportunity for firsthand contact with the city's underground history.
More of Jorge Pérez de Lara's exclusive photos appear in the print version of this issue.
Jorge Pérez de Lara is a commercial photographer and freelance writer living in Mexico City.