chac mool. Although there are some variations, the overwhelming majority of chac mools that I have seen are virtually identical to the one above. The typical figure rests on its back, with knees bent. The head is turned to the side in a watchful stance. The arms support a shallow tray or bowl on the figure's stomach. An upper-arm bracelet is used as a knife-holder. The knife and the tray are significant, because the most likely function of a chac mool was to receive the still-warm and dripping heart of a sacrificial victim. A chac mool identical to the one above rests at the top of Chichen Itzá's Temple of the Warriors, and another was found in that Maya city's famous El Castillo pyramid. Although the two cities were worlds apart both geographically and culturally, they had a strong but still mysterious connection (see Part 1 of this series).
censer is a device for burning copal incense during religious and other ceremonies. Censers are usually decorated, often with faces such as the wide-eyed, open-mouthed figure on this censer.
"Chichimec" is actually an Aztec term for hunter-gatherer nomads from the northern deserts. It is not the name of a specific ethnic group, but rather means something akin to "uncivilized barbarian." In other words, any group which is not settled and urbanized.
almost identical standard bearer stands atop a plumed serpent on the Temple of Warriors at Chichen Itzá, another example of the many mysterious connections between the two ancient cities.
The modern city of Tula
Tula municipality (roughly comparable to a US county) there are only about 28,000 in the city itself. For information about visiting Tula, click here. For a map of Tula and the surrounding area, click here.
Construction on the Cathedral began in 1543 and concluded in 1554. The Renaissance-style architecture is a very austere but beautiful, constructed with pink and gray cantera stone that glows in the afternoon sun. Fray Antonio de San Juan was the architect, with some assistance from Fray Juan de Alamenda.
iglesias fortalezas (fortress churches) because they have similar appearances. Most were built within a few decades of the Conquest when revolts were common, as well as raids from the north by the Chichimecs. The high walls, battlements with turrets, and narrow windows created a formidable defensive position to which the local population could flee, if necessary.
Mexican Electrical Workers Union. The union members were holding a hunger strike to protest their arbitrary (and possibly illegal) mass firing by the Mexican government. As a retired union organizer I was immediately sympathetic to their struggle. My Spanish was too limited to determine all of the details, but it sounded very similar to some of the strikes I had helped organize over the years. My Mexican union brother was glad to pose for a photo in front of the hunger-strike's tent-headquarters.
Hotel Real Catedral worked out perfectly. The site couldn't be better, in the center of town, across the street from the Cathedral, and on the edge of the plaza, and--very important--it has off-street parking. The rooms were clean, modern, and reasonably priced at $57.00 (USD) for a double. Split between us, that made it quite inexpensive. The beds were comfortable and everything worked, including the air conditioning on that particularly hot day. We even found a nice Continental breakfast waiting the next morning. After our long drive from Zacatlán, we were ready for a little comfort. For a list of other hotels in Tula, click here.