Whilst on my way to the starting point for the Avenue of the Mysteries, which I blogged about yesterday, I stumbled across Tlatelolco, an old Aztec city. I’d been there before. Twice in fact. In 2003 and in 2007 with my mum and sister. I think. We were on the standard ‘hotel/hostel tour’ to Teotihuacan, the most impressive of the ancient ruins within the Valley of Mexico. I highly recommend that, by the way. They stop off at several places en route, including the Basilica de Guadalupe.
Anyway, Tlatelolco was once an independent city in its own right, sharing the island with the citizens of Tenochtitlan. Until the latter decided to beat up on their little sister and annex the place. It’s not the most impressive set of ruins you’ll ever come across, but it does get 10 out of 10 in one or two respects. Firstly, entry is free (as it should be for somewhere so small really) which is always good by me.
But more to the point, they issue visitors with a free guide book. In Spanish and English. And good English too! Even the stones with engraved information placed around the site is in English as well as Spanish. This is, unfortunately, something of a rarity in Mexico, with the vast majority of museums and historical sites offering only Spanish info. Those that do offer something in English usually only bother to offer a few tit bits, and the grammar is more often than not, quite appalling.
I can personally handle the Spanish, even if I get stuck on a few words. But considering just how many foreign tourists visit these places (and the Germans, Russians etc are more likely to have a good grasp of English than Spanish), and considering how important tourist dollars are to them, and to Mexico in general – well, you’d think they’d make the effort. It wouldn’t cost a fortune. The are plenty of native English speakers in Mexico City, and I bet they wouldn’t have to search the net long before finding one who’d help out for a small fee. Or even just for an annual pass. (Hint – I’m volunteering Mr Curator!)
If you haven’t heard of Tlatelolco before, but are quite familiar with the city, its possibly because its often referred to under the more encompassing title of the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. Have you tried pronouncing Tlatelolco? I’m struggling to get my tongue around it. The plaza is so called, because on three sides of a square are the physical deposits of the three main cultures to have inhabited the area. The Aztec ruins representing the ancient Mexicans. A church representing the Spanish colonial history of the area, and finally a big office block, representing modern day Mexico.
The square itself has some history, and a dark bit of history it is too. In 1968, thousands of students took to the square just a few days before the Mexico Olympics were due to start. They protested. Soldiers arrived. They protested some more. The soldiers opened fire. The government claims as few as 30 people were killed. More believable estimates put the death toll at two or three hundred. The massacre still scars the city, and justice is still called for. Fox promised investigation, prosecution and justice in his 2000 presidential campaign. He won, and there was an investigation. Arrests were made. A half hearted prosecution took place.
But last year, after a long appeals process, the main person held responsible for the shootings, a former president Luis Echeverria (although not president at the time of the event) had all charges thrown out. The charge was genocide. A ridiculous charge in my opinion, one he wasn’t guilty of, and one that would never hold up and stand the ‘rigors’ of Mexico’s court system. Some might suggest that was the intention…
Anyway, I took a few photos. Of the ruins, the church, the square and the memorial. Click here to go see them on Flickr.