Tepoztlan, The land of Tepoztécatl

Tepoztlan, The land of Tepoztécatl

The land of Tepoztécatl, a victorious warrior over the fearful serpent Mazacuatl of Xochicalco,  Man of Tepoztlan and preast of the idol Ometochtli; land with a past that is intermixed with the thickness of the magic mist that surrounded the steps of the mythological heroe; place of traditions, leyends and apparitions, encircled by a row of rocky formations with impregnable strength: Tepoztlan.

The name means “Place of the Copper Axe” or “Place of the Fractured Rocks”, and is derived of the nahuatl tongue. Since the times of the aztec power, Tepoztlan stood as another neighbor town who payed tribute to that warrior town, and even though we count with such a historical fact, the origin of this place is as uncertain as mysterious.

During the past it was occupied by various native groups: tlahuicas, tolteca-chichimecas leaded by Mixcóatl and who conquered the Valley of México, extending their domain all the way to what is today the territory of Morelos and finally between the XIII and XVI centuries the Xochimilcas, as told by Fray Diego de Durán. Later on, after the consolidation of the mexica empire in Tenochtitlán, Tepoztlan ended up under their power, incorporating itself to the tributary census of Oaxtepec. Among the materials that formed part of such a tribute were the amate paper, made maioss on the top part, which marks the place where Tepoztecatl was baptized as a sign of his conversion to Christianity. The temple is formed by two rooms: the first  served as vestibule and in the center one may observe a rectangular spot where there were found remains of charcoal and copal; the next room probably lodged the sculpture of the main god, and although the original ceiling does not exist, it was observed during the first explorations of the temple that it probably had been held by wooden beams. The truth is that the temple did have a great importance, to such a degree that multiple pilgrimages arrived to it from the State of Chiapas and from Guatemala.

Tepoztlan, The land of Tepoztécatl
Tepoztlan, The land of Tepoztécatl

There is a unique halo that envelops the region of Tepoztlan, having as vortex the famous Hill of the Tepozteco, dominating the town and its surroundings since immemorial times. “It possesses alot of energy”, affirm thousands of visitors who attracted by the fame of the hill, ascend to the top to admire the small pyramid that is anchored on the summit, as well as the panorama exposed before the severity of the mountain chain of the beautiful National Park El Tepozteco.

It is said that approximately in 1150, began the construction of what we know today as “The Pyramid of the Tepozteco”, dedicated to the god Ometochtli-Tepuztécatl, one of the gods of the pulque. The stroll up to the pyramid begins in a place known as “Axihtla”, in the Baptistry Cross, a monument formed by a sphere of rock with a cross on the top part, which marks the place where Tepoztecatl was baptized as a sign of his conversion to Christianity.  The temple is formed by two rooms: the first served as vestibule where in the center one may observe a rectangular spot where there were found remains of charcoal and copal; the next room probably lodged the sculpture of the main god, and although the original ceiling does not exist, it was observed during the first explorations of the temple that it probably had been held by wooden beams. The truth is that the temple did have a great importance, to such a degree that multiple pilgrimages arrived to it from the State of Chiapas and from Guatemala.

Tepoztlan is located 20 kilometres from the city of Cuernavaca, in the State of Morelos, and is distinguished as an area that forms part of the biological corridor Ajusco-Chichinautzin. The fauna of the place possesses some very varied species: armadillos, badgers, squirrels, skunks, eagles, sparrowhawks and humming birds, as well as an admirable range of arachnids, among them the tarantula, the black widow or the scorpion. The heat of the day stands before the freshness of the night, a contrast that is also reflected in the diversity of the inhabitants who live here. Markets and locations with modest customs, as well as neighbors who own big residences meet in the cobblestone streets of the town, at church or along the rustic market stands at the central plaza.

The Ex-Convent of the Nativity was built by the religious order of the dominicos during the second half of the XVI century. We are talking about an imposing building that dominates, as well as the parish church, the tepoztecan landscape. The declared “Cultural Patrimony of Humanity” in 1994 also lodges the Museum and Center of Historical Documentation, which counts with 4 rooms where shown are aspects like the habitat and the population, economy, everyday life, religiousness, music and dance. The Parish Church or the “Big Church”, is another great building where one may appreciate the influence and work of the natives. At the atrium one may still admire the remains of the chapels, located in each of the corners, apart from the open chapel which continues to be used during some ceremonies and festivities.

Tepoztlan depends to a degree on the tourism, which frequents the place most of all during the weekends, because of the advantage that it is close to Cuernavaca and to México City. The stores are succeeded one after the other, same as the stands that are lined up at the edge of the main street, offering clothes made out of cotton, handicrafts, ornamental articles, shoes and accesories, etc.

But maybe the greatest fame of the town is due to the Carnival of Tepoztlan, celebrated for the first time in 1862 with the traditional “Hop of the Chinelo”,