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A trip to Old Mexico and Mexico City puts our historical roots in perspective

With all the talk of wall building and immigration, sometimes what gets lost in all of the hoopla is just what kind of incredible adventures lie to the south of New Mexico.

Mexico, in particular Mexico City, is a vast conglomeration of history, culture and art that is so readily accessible, said Anne Key, one of the principals in Sacred Tours of Mexico.

Key, along with Mexico City native Maria Veronica Iglesias, will be leading a guided tour of the Mexican capital this summer.

Key is an adjunct faculty member of women’s studies, English and religious studies in New Mexico and California, and Iglesias has a master’s degree in Mesoamerican Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). She was initiated as a sahumadora (bearer of the Sacred Sahumerio) when she was 8 years old. She also was instructed in the sacred knowledge of Mesoamerican shamanism and became a Portadora de la Palabra, bearer of the Sacred Word.

The tour is an immersion into ancient, colonial and modern history, art and architecture, Key said.

The visit includes staying in the historic center of Mexico City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; climbing the pyramids of Teotihuacan; exploring the floating gardens of Xochimilco; exploring Templo Mayor; bringing the past into the present with a ceremony with a local curandero and a temazcal – a traditional sweat bath.

“It’s so close and so affordable, it’s a shame not to take advantage of Mexico City,” Key said. “Here in New Mexico, our land is tied with this culture. The museums are world-class, literally world-class. Mexico City is the gem of Latin America. The art is off the charts —— like going to Europe, but a lot cheaper for us.”

One of the highlights of the weeklong excursion is a trip to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to see the cloak of Juan Diego, which bears the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

It is the most-visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world.

“It is one of the most powerful spiritual experiences seeing this image,” Key said. I wasn’t raised Catholic, and I didn’t expect it to be. It’s a very powerful place.”

The Zócalo, where ruins are built upon additional ruins, is an amazing site as it is viewed from above, she said.

A huge Aztec temple and ball court more than 500 years old were unearthed last year.

A visit to Mexico City would not be complete without climbing the pyramids of Teotihuacan, but there’s more to the site than that, Key said.

“Everyone goes to the pyramids,” she said. “They’re giant, a beautiful experience. But one of things people don’t see are the murals. They are just amazing.”

Before the Aztecs conquered the area, there was another civilization that built all the structures with an estimated 125,000 people. Several of the apartments have been preserved.

“Inside of these apartments, they painted murals, and these murals are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen,” Key said. “There’s one filled with jaguars and another whole room with eaglets with their little furry heads. There’s a myth of a mound where food and riches came from, and you can see a mound in some of the rooms, with figures dancing around it and swimming around it.”

Eating Native foods is another part of the cultural experience as the area is undergoing a back-to-the-roots Native cooking revival.

“The whole craft beer thing here, they’re having an indigenous food revival,” Key said. “Nouvelle cuisine, using indigenous things like insects and different kinds of corn. Different kinds of mushrooms. Corn fungus, using those in new dishes. And pulque from the agave. It’s fun to be there in this moment when they’re having this food renaissance.”