A-maize-ing Archaeology

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Mexico City 2019
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Although there is an endless supply of museums and sights to see in Mexico City proper, we decided that it’d be worth taking a day to head to Teotihuacan, about an hour outside the city. And for such a long, arduous journey, proper sustenance was required. Hence, we started our day with breakfast tacos.

Actually, on the way to breakfast, we passed a bakery and had to pop in. For, you know, trail snacks.

Then it was on to El Hidalguense, a barbacoa restaurant, only open on weekends. It was featured on the Taco Chronicles on Netflix, and it lives up to the hype. The owner tends to his ranch during the week, raising lambs that get turned into the most amazing tacos. Everyone was incredibly friendly as well, as seems to be the norm here.

Full of tacos and enchiladas, we took an uber up to the bus depot and caught a bus out to to Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is a ~2000 year old city, which peaked at around 85,000 people. Very little is known about the civilization itself, which predates the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican societies. Much of the settlement remains unexcavacted, but visitors can explore the “main drag”, the avenue of the dead, with its anchoring pyramids. We wandered the site, clamoring up the pyramids and ducking into the shade whenever possible. It turns out, “I’ll put on sunscreen when we get there” works better when one brings the sunscreen.

The interpretive signage at the site is worn and not that helpful, and the internet resources are surprisingly lacking. It’s difficult to determine what’s been reconstructed. We had fun meeting some school groups touring the site – they were eager to practice some English, and we were eager to give high fives.

There’s a small museum on site (the bulk of the artifacts have ended up in Mexico City) which gives a taste of the art and craftsmanship of the civilization. We were especially enthralled with the incredibly delicate obsidian blades. Archaeologists believe that Teotihuacan exported obsidian cores to much of Central America.

For a late lunch, we left the site itself to eat at La Gruta, a restaurant situated in a lava cave. While the food itself is nothing to write home about (with a huge number of tables catering to tour busses, you wouldn’t expect better), the setting is pretty magical. After eating, you’re given a candle to place on the rock walls, a recognition of the belief that the cave is where fire sprung from. At least, that’s what I gathered from the placard on the table.

After lunch, we hopped a bus back to the city and took the metro to our apartment. The Mexico City metro is very user friendly – we did a transfer at a station near the science museum, and all the of walls are covered with very in-depth explanations of cosmological science.

Our dinner was our big big splurge for the trip, an omakase menu at a hot New Mexican/Japanese fusion place called either E, Emilia, or E by Lucho. There seems to be some disagreement about the actual name. We were the first to be seated for the evening (sitting at the bar surrounding the open kitchen), but the restaurant was already in full swing serving a TV host who was filming a piece about the restaurant. A moment later, a French couple was seated next to us. They brought a gift for the chef, having met him a few weeks ago on another visit. It turns out they’re both food photographers, in town scouting restaurants for a fancy French magazine. They started talked to the TV host, who also turned out to speak fluent French. Needless to say, we were out of our league. As the restaurant continued to fill (they seat a new group every 15 minutes or so), that message was driven home.

The meal itself leaned more heavily towards the Japanese than Mexican, and wouldn’t have felt out of place in any big city. It was all very tasty and exciting, though given the choice, we’d probably have more barbacoa tacos. We’re simple folks at heart.

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