The Sun Stone
My blog posts got a bit derail by the pandemic but I wanted to tell you about our adventures in Mexico City last November, a chance for some vicarious travel.
After our time in Teotihuacan, we took two cars back to Mexico City, about an hour away. Bowens are very tall people and we couldn’t fit into just one regular car. Within an hour, we arrived at our beautiful Airbnb in Roma Norte. Alexandra’s earlier trip to Mexico City helped us locate the part of the city that we really wanted to explore. After an ATM stop, groceries and a bit of gawking at the beautiful architecture, we took a rest, got some dinner and settled in for some Netflix. I suggested the girls watch Frida since we were going to Frida Kahlo’s home the next day.
I have known Frida Kahlo’s enigmatic self-portraits for many years but last summer several of her paintings were on exhibit in Nashville along with paintings of her husband Diego Rivera. There is great energy in these glimpses into Frida’s fractured soul. Her pain and intensity shine through each painting like nothing else in that gallery or museum. I learned more about her life and was pleased to glimpse into her creative world. I made reservations a month in advanced and was able to skip the long line of people waiting for their turn in the small house/museum. Fortunately, her home is preserved as she left it and this shrine to a remarkable soul remains available to inspire me. I have not known the physical pain that Frida endured but through her home and work I could touch the creative spirit that came through despite her difficult life. Frida was totally and completely herself in art and in life. The beautiful, lush courtyard was painted a brilliant blue, an oasis in a bustling city. Everywhere you can still experience her creativity and personal style be it nature, art, clothes, furniture and books. We wandered for an hour or so, soaking in the sunlight, imagining Frida’s life, both beautiful and painful.
Next on the agenda was the SUN STONE. I had no idea it was in Mexico City in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. The Aztec sun stone was discovered in 1790. It has many interpretations including the one I was familiar with, the 2012 Mayan calendar predictions. In the early 2000’s the sun stone was the center of the December 21, 2012 end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. There was much speculation about the meaning. Would the world end? Would we enter a new spiritual era? I read a lot of books on the possible meaning of the 2012 date. I don’t participate in apocalyptic theories but I did find it all interesting and I liked the history of the Mayan people. The sun stone was a major focus for many years.
The museum is big and beautiful with different rooms for each epoch surrounding a central courtyard with a big fountain. Each room leads to a beautiful garden. I could have stayed all day but I wanted to see the sun stone. It is prominently displayed as the central artifact in the largest room. I had no idea it was so enormous and breath-taking. I savored all the artifacts and slowly wound my way to the stone I read about for so many years. But as much as I loved the sun stone the museum had another surprise for me. My friend Karen-who lived in Mexico City-told me that everyone she took to that museum had a mystical experience but the triggering object was always a surprise. As much as I loved the sun stone it was not my trigger. My experience came a couple of rooms later. Hamilton went to sit on a bench in the courtyard and I went on alone and came face to face with the Olmec head, a giant human face carved from a basalt boulder. I can’t really describe my experience but it was intense and there was something about this Olmec head that rocked my world for that moment. There are 17 of these heads around central America and date from at least 900 BC. They definitely remind me of the Easter Island Moai statues and the faces of Brahman in Cambodia. Sun stones, Olmec heads, pyramids to the gods—so much we don’t know but I love the mystery. I revel in the mystery.
Sunday I wanted to see the cathedrals. You know I have to see the cathedrals. But travel always has surprises, especially when you don’t speak the language. The Mexico City Metropolitan cathedral is in the center of the city next to the National Palace. The traffic was intense and the Uber driver said something to us and we just acted like we understood. What he was probably telling us –giant political rally for the presidential elections. We could not get anywhere near the cathedral. Instead were thousands and thousands of people, hundreds and hundreds of police all around giant screens projecting the loud speeches. We had a long walk to get where we could get another Uber. Finally, we headed to the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. More crowds lead the way up to the packed Basilica in the middle of one of several Masses that day. It was the first day of Advent and close to Our Lady of Guadalupe feast day. We watched a bit of the Mass and saw a group of young girls in white awaiting their first communion. I didn’t see the relic or the rest of the Basilica but I experienced something special- the Mexican people’s devotion to their saint. That day wasn’t about me visiting cathedrals but about experiencing life being lived with enthusiasm and devotion. Political rallies, venerating saints—it was real life in Mexico, so different from my world but so inspiring.
There was also good food, margaritas, craft markets and above all, family time. We all loved our experience in Mexico and came away with wonderful memories and a deep appreciation for the rich culture and kind people of Mexico.
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe