This past Sunday my girlfriend and I visited the ancient ruins of Xochicalco, roughly two hours south of Mexico City and about 2,000 feet lower in elevation. Xochicalco is specifically dedicated to the plumed serpent god Quetzalcóatl, revered by not just the Aztecs but by other pre-Colombian tribes as well. Chronologically, Xochicalco was one of the last Aztec citadels, occupied after the mysterious fall (abandonment?) of more famous Teotihuacán. On the way back to Mexico City we changed buses in Cuernavaca, and opted to grab dinner in this lively mid-sized city.
The Cuernavaca city center is dominated by the Palacio de Cortés, an imposing fortress-turned-museum built by (or at the behest of, more likely) Cortés after his men conquered the region. Cortés had the local Aztec temple razed, then used the temple’s stones to build his mighty palace atop the same hallowed ground, most likely using indigenous slave labor, a reminder to them of the European man’s supposed superiority. With Thanksgiving just two days away, I couldn’t help but compare that to the history of my own Estados Unidos de Gringolandia.