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El Tajin
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2014-01-21 18:40:49 | Tajin, Veracruz-Llave, Mexico
Keywords: pre-hispanic, pyramids, UNESCO
At first, I didn't plan to go to El Tajin, but after I met another traveller on the El Chepe train, I decided it was worth a look. And yes, it was worth it. It's a site quite different from other pyramids sites I've encountered so far in Mexico, because it's very densely packed, probably because of the surrounding hills and the pyramids are quite fragile and not accessible to the visitors. But overall, it's a very interesting site, that is easily accessible.

The city of El Tajin was at its peak from years 800 to 1200, it was in a period after the fall of the empire centred around Teotihuacan but before the raise and expansion of the Aztec one. It played a very important role not only in the area but also all along the Mexican Caribbean coast. The city was very well structured and every member of the various classes of the society had their area within the city.

The architecture is pretty unique for the pre-Hispanic era, mostly because of the niches used all over the the site. But nowhere are the niches more spectacular than on the Pyramid of the Niches. The niches are all around it... and there are 365 of them... representing clearly the Sun calendar. But the use of the pyramid was first ritual with the temple on top of it (it was destroyed a long time ago, but they found traces that leave no doubt about its use). The niches are often also perceived by the natives as a gateway to the afterlife. It was thus common to see niches with bee wax candles and religious items in them, as to guide or accompany a loved one into the other side.

Some of the pyramids of the site, the one at the back is the Pyramid of the Niches

Although it's located outside the cities, the site is very easily accessible by city bus from both Patantla and Poza Rica. I based myself in Patantla, but I was there in less than 30 minutes and for roughly a US dollar. Many people reach the site by taxi from the city. It's very close to the city, but the bus makes a detour to deserve another city on its way there. Both the site and the museum would gain from being more documented though (although all the pre-hispanic sites are managed by the INAH – Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia – the infrastructures and information available vary greatly from one site to the other).

The UNESCO placed the site on the World Heritage Sites list in 1992 to recognize its rich and unique architecture as well as its important role in the local culture and history. It's a little detour from most tourist routes, but I think it will be a good use of your time.

Overview of the city

Related posts:
What I've seen in Mexico
San Agustin site
Stone spheres of the Diquís valley
Southern Guatemala


left this comment on 2014-01-22 09:18:05

WOW, what an amazing site! Thanks for sharing Sylvain, we don't get to hear much about it.

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