An Ancient Pyramid in the City Skyline
By Paige Mitchell @paigemitchell_traductora
Last weekend, I embarked on an adventure with a couple of friends to El Cerrito, an archeological zone and natural sanctuary encircled by urban sprawl and located only 7 kilometers from the City of Querétaro in the municipality of Corregidora.
Upon arriving, we joined a tour group and all of us set out on the stone path toward the main pyramid, known as El Pueblito. Along the way, our guide spoke to us about some of the flora and fauna that live in this haven, like mesquite, huisache, nopal, órgano, garambullo and maguey, as well as a number of shrubs and flowers. There are also snakes, lizards, foxes, a wide variety of insects, like bees and butterflies, in addition to migratory and resident birds, such as parakeets and hummingbirds.
Within this pre-Hispanic site, we visited plazas or courtyards, like Plaza de la Danza, where ritual dances are still performed or Plaza de las Esculturas, so named owing to the innumerable sculptures discovered along its walls. Plaza de las Esculturas is a sunken courtyard surrounded by raised platforms, giving the impression of being isolated from the rest of the complexes and connected only to the sky above—a powerful sensation that surely heightened the overall ritual experience. Finally, we came upon the Altar de Cráneos, where over fifty male skulls and jawbones have been unearthed, believed to be the adult male skulls of Toltec warriors between the ages of 18 and 40, which were buried here as ritual offerings.
The main attraction is the pyramid itself, El Pueblito, which was constructed in three stages and reaches a height of 30 meters. According to the native cosmovision, its thirteen tiers represent the thirteen levels of the creation of the world. Only part of the pyramid is exposed, while the remainder is covered in natural vegetation as it was originally found.
For many years, El Cerrito was the most important commercial and ceremonial site in the region. Throughout the ages, many groups like the Chupicuaro, Chichimecs, Purepecha and Otomi came here to worship their gods. But at its zenith, El Cerrito was ruled by the Toltecs and according to legend, seven Toltec tribes were led here by goddess Itzpapalotl from Tollan—a sacred place that did not exist on the terrestrial plane—to populate the earth. This story and many more treasures can be found at El Cerrito’s Site Museum, consisting of four halls and a total of 125 pieces on display.
Our visit was truly inspirational, I am already planning our next archeological expedition: Toluquilla, a pre-Hispanic site built on top of a vast plateau high up in the mountains and surrounded by forest of the monumental Sierra Gorda. My hiking gear is already packed and waiting by the door!