Saturday, July 9, 2016

Archaeological Site - Cañada de la Virgin

This is supposed to be a vacation but it felt like a regular work week.  Too many errands and running back and forth.  I decided yesterday that the weekend would be for me.   Apart from that, the botanical garden is having a 25th anniversary celebration this weekend.   It started out with a bang, literally.  Fireworks this afternoon were perfect for waking me from a great nap.   Not a complaint but just the way it is.   I am participating in some of the events tonight and tomorrow. 

So all these years we have been coming to San Miguel de Allende I never knew that there were archaeological ruins nearby.   In fact, today I learned there are over 1200 in the state of Guanajuato alone but only five have been completely restored and open to the public.
Cañada de la Virgen (the name has nothing to do with the site itself other than the fact that this is the current day name for the area) is located 30 miles from SMA heading towards the city of Guanajuato.  What a beautiful drive.  The highway heads toward Celaya and then cuts right going by the far end of the presa.  

Signs clearly mark the way and before I knew it I was parking at their visitor´s center.  Very well done.  I thought I would drive to the ruins and just walk around.  They have scheduled tours that leave every two hours.  I took the 11 a.m. tour.

Comfortable tour vans took us 8 kms to the site.   We got off and walked a kilometer up over the hill.   On the walk we stopped halfway at a covered area where the tour guide began telling us about the area.  The pyramids were built in 540 A.D. and the site was abandon like so many others around the year 900 due to the supposed drought that covered much of Mexico at the time.

As we continued up and over the hill there it was.   An excellent restoration that is constantly being maintained.   To keep the blocks together and in place they use the original mixture of baba from cactus (the slimy juice and I saw workers making it, they don’t by agave juice from health stores), cal or gypsum and rich black top soil.  The top soil is on one side of the pyramid.  This dirt was what covered the mound over the last 1000 years from wind, rain and dust.  

The foundations of rooms surround the main pyramid where the royalty lived.   Of the 15 tombs they have uncovered there is no sign of human sacrifice.   One interesting detail is that those they did discover were all missing their feet and no one has found any remains of those feet.  Yikes!

The detail of the main room on top of the pyramid still has some of the original painting on the wall.  It is now under conservation.  The site wasn’t discovered until 1985 and the land was owned by a German woman who refused to give it up.   Finally, the government used imminent domain to obtain it paying her for the land.   Since the 1800s and the advent of haciendas in the area the site has been pretty much looted although they have managed to find many artifacts. 

As I looked out over the plains I tried to envision what life would have been like.   As all other archaeological sites we have visited in Mexico the realization is the same.  Over the last couple of thousand years we haven’t changed much.  We still live in square houses with doors, windows and roofs.  This site even has a system of water canals. 


The tour came to an end and the two hours were way too short.  Cost of the tour was 39 pesos for the guide and the ride.  It made for a great day outing.   Tomorrow is Sunday and market day so I will have to juggle the events here along with that.  Fireworks here at the botanical garden will start at 6 a.m. so I will probably be up if not that will be my alarm.  A long walk down to the centro and then up the hill to eat something delicious at the market.  I’m already thinking about next weekend.  

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