While visiting Mexico City, one of the “must-dos” for tourists is to take a day trip just outside the city to the ancient ruins of Teotihuacán. This was once the sixth largest city in the world. It contains the world’s third largest pyramid. And it was built almost 2,000 years ago by pre-Columbian and pre-Aztec people.
We never made it to Teotihuacán while we were staying in CDMX, so decided to make it a stop on our road trip, en route from Michoacán to Puebla.
Because most visitors are day-trippers and we decided to stay the night, we were able to enjoye the small adjacent community of San Juan Teotihuacán after the grounds closed without the throngs of tourists. There, once again, the kindness of local strangers touched our hearts, lifted our spirits, and provided some critical limes and ice in our time of need.
But more on that soon.
The Avenue of the Dead is Teotihuacán’s “main drag.” The most significant remaining structures of the city sit on either side and end of its impressive length (about 2.5 miles) and wide berth (about 150 feet).
You enter the park on one end, and look down to avenue to the other, where sits the imposing Pyramid of the Moon with tiny, ant-like humans climbing up its face. Meanwhile, the Pyramid of the Sun (the aforementioned 3rd largest in the world) precedes the Pyramid of the Moon on the right hand side, with its own, slightly larger-ant-like-people climbing up its face. Dozens of smaller structures – mostly ceremonial, some residential – line the avenue, giving a sense of where and how the ~125,000 people of this city spent their time.
After upping our stair-climb-step-count in ascents of the pyramids, and debating whether urban planning was a profession in the era of Teotihuacán, we made our way back down the Avenue of the Dead to the entrance and towards our lodging for the evening.
About an hour before dusk in quiet San Juan Teotihuacán, we parked the Prizefighter outside a small house with a black gate and the correct street number. As we got out of the car, the smell of grilled meat greeted us. We knocked on the gate and a moment later, an elderly woman opened. Behind her, two small dogs were jumping and barking excitedly and a festive gathering of maybe a dozen people of all ages suggested we might be in the wrong place, and interrupting something.
Instead, it turned out the ‘hotel’ we had booked was actually just a room attached to a family’s house, and said family was celebrating the 18th birthday of their grand-daughter. They all greeted us warmly and invited us to join them for burgers.
Later, after we had settled into our room and charted our course for the next day, we decided it was time to enjoy some of the tequila we’d been carrying around with us since Tequila. We put our shoes on and went out in search of margarita supplies. The town was largely dead, but a convenience store a few blocks down had its door open, so we ducked in.
“Buenas tardes. Hay hielo?” we asked.
“No, no hay.” the shopkeeper responded.
“Ay, que lastima. Hay limones?”
“No, no hay limones.”
“Cuantos limones necesitan?” a fellow customer asked.
Rita happened to live around the corner, and happened to be stocked with a sack of limes and a freezer filled with filtered ice cubes. She insisted we should have them, in that uniquely maternal way which suggests you really have no other option.
Leaving the shop empty handed, we followed Rita down an alley and into her kitchen. As we chatted, she loaded a bag with more limes and ice than one could reasonably consume in an evening, or maybe even week. We thanked her profusely, grateful for this touching, unearned generosity, and she sent us on our way.
We enjoyed a delicious margarita, shaken in a water bottle and served in a mug, while watching the recently released Knock Down the House documentary, which added a second dimension of moving inspiration for the day.
The next morning, on Cinco de Mayo, our host family and their barking dogs Chocolate and Panda bid us farewell, and we headed to Puebla!