Canada de la Virgen

This blog has nothing to do with the country north of us nor the maturing of youth to adulthood. Rather it is about a pyramid built by the Otomi people about 15 miles from what is now San Miguel. Tuesday, Laura and I took a tour of the site led by Albert Coffee, a graduate in archaeology from LSU. He was persuaded by a friend to move to San Miguel, despite there being no developed archeological sites in the area. Shortly after moving here, he learned of the discovery of Canada de la Virgen and the plans to restore it. He decide to do whatever it took to be part of the team. It is very interesting taking a tour led by one of the people active in restoring the site. When restoration began, the site looked like a small hill with trees and shrubs growing on it. The smaller vegetation was removed, but some of the bigger trees were left as they help to hold it together.The Otomi are believed to be the original inhabitants of this area. They were avid skywatchers and in particular worshiped the sun and the moon. They passed their knowledge and observations from one generation to the next. The location of the pyramid was based on astronomical criteria, religious beliefs, and agricultural cycles. The site was occupied from 540 CE to 1050 CE.Evacuation of the site began privately in 1995 and officially in 2002. Public access was first allowed in 2011. The site is located on private property, so admission is strictly limited.The House of the Wind is a unique structure that has a square base and a round top.The House of the Longest Night has a sunken patio that could be flooded with water in the rainy season. It is believed that this was useful in studying the stars as they could look down at the reflection rather than looking up at the stars.The main structure, The House of the Thirteen Heavens, was built in two and a half phases. The first phase was built with these large rectangular blocks. These blocks came from “beyond the horizon” and had to be carried to the site on the backs of workers.The second phase was built on top of the first using locally available stones. A third phase was begun using smaller locally available stones as shown on levels one and two, but it was never completed.This is the main structure viewed from its entrance. The site faces celestial north so the stars spin around the top of it. The moon aligns perfectly with the notches of the pyramid at key times in the lunar cycle and at the equinox. There is a nineteen year cycle, so the Otomi had to study and record lunar data for a nineteen year period to design and build the pyramid.This gives you an idea of the steps you have to walk up to the top of the pyramid. If you walk up sideways, your foot fits pretty well. I brought my walking stick for the occasion,Other than being narrow and uneven, the steps were really pretty easy.The view from the top overlooks another sunken patio they could flood with water and the ceremonial entrance road. Going down was much more nerve-wracking than going up.

Dr. Rossana Ennis has studied and photographed the relationships of the sun and moon with the pyramid for ten years. After completing our tour of the site, we visited her museum and restaurant, which served a prehispanic lunch featuring native, seasonal ingredients based on the symbolism of the Aztec calendar. The lunch was delicious! My main course featured rabbit.One thing I had never seen before was a decorated tortilla. I asked about this and she said it was a traditional thing to do before the Spanish arrived.It was done with a carved wooden mold which she covered with a red plant dye using a corn cob.

Following lunch, she made a fascinating presentation of her work studying the relationship of the pyramid with the sun, the moon, and the 260 day Myan Calendar. She has documented her work with numerous pictures of the sun and moon at key points on the pyramid at important times in the calendar and agricultural cycle. She said they could not predict when an eclipse would occur, but the position of the moon on the pyramid accurately told them when an eclipse was impossible. While I can’t say I fully understood her work, I left fully amazed that the ancient people were able to design and build the pyramid to achieve all these relationships with the sun and the moon. She believes that Venus entered into their design and she plans to continue her studies to prove that. I highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting San Miguel.

3 thoughts on “Canada de la Virgen”

  1. Fascinating. I was very sorry that WC#1 changed their original planned itinerary and eliminated Belize and Cozumel…..I had wanted to see pyramids. Guess I’ll have to plan another trip!

  2. Bruce and Susan go to Mexico every winter. She was my first friend when I left Asheville.

    I thought you would enjoy this

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