The Great Pyramid of Cholula

San Andres Cholula is a neighborhood in the Cholula section of Puebla, Mexico. In 1990 this municipality had 54,000 people (that same year, Puebla had more than a million people). San Andres Cholula is also known for having one church for every day of the day, although I understand it may actually be seventy (trust me, you see elaborate churches on almost every block). The second most important private university in Mexico is located there: The University of the Americas. This is also the home of my carnal Alex, my brother not by blood but by friendship. Alex says I'm his only family and I understand. He's a 40-year-old tattoo artist with one of the best tattoo/piercing shops in Mexico: La Calaveras. His wife, Gaby, is an English teacher, an artist herself, and has plans to create a school for children. They are a wonderful couple, and were most helpful to me during my three days in Puebla. It turned out I got a two-day stomach flu the day I landed there. Alex and Gaby gave me herbal medicine, a great rubdown and chicken soup. [caption id="attachment_538" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="The Great Pyramid, viewed from the south, the Church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios on top. Photo: Wikipedia."]The Great Pyramid, viewed from the south, the Church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios on top. Photo: Wikipedia.[/caption] I got well enough that on the last day we visited the Great Pyramid of Cholula, known as the Teocalli de Cholula (also called Tlachihualteptl--"artificial mountain"). This is the largest pre-conquest pyramid in the Western Hemisphere by volume. In fact its base is larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. The pyramid was built in layers over ten centuries. Archaeologists have been able to excavate five miles of tunnels so far (there may be many more miles of tunnels under the structure). The story goes that Cortez and his soldiers massacred up to 10,000 people in Cholula, then built a church on top of the pyramid. He wanted to build a church for each of the 400 indigenous shrines (perhaps the basis for “a church for every day of the year”). The church on top of the pyramid was completed in 1594 and is called "The Church of Our Lady of Remedies." It is now a major pilgrimage site. The native Mexika people of Cholula covered the pyramid in mud and dirt to keep its powers and secrets from the Spanish. Today most of the pyramid looks like a large mound overlooking the municipalities of San Andres, San Pedro and Santa Isabel. The church is brightly lit at night. Only one side of the pyramid's base is visible. There is also another side of plazas, ceremonial centers, and other structures. [caption id="attachment_540" align="alignright" width="360" caption="Model of the Great Pyramid of Cholula located in the museum in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico. Photo: Wikipedia"]Model of the Great Pyramid of Cholula located in the museum in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico. Photo: Wikipedia[/caption] Gaby told me that when she was a child, her mother told her about a hidden duck in the pyramid. At one section of the plaza area, Gaby then clapped her hands and the echo created a sound that sounded like a duck quacking. In fact, this plaza was created so that the sounds spoken at one end could be carried outwards like a giant microphone. The leader of the people, known as Great Speaker, would address thousands of the tribe in a plaza this way. An amazing scientific achievement. We also got to see Totonac natives from Veracruz performing as “voladores,” the dancers on a high pole that twirl around and around from the top until they reach the ground. I’ve seen them in Taxco, Mexico as well as Olvera Street in Los Angeles. Quite a feat. I returned to the United States on December 10 (only to leave the next day for the Bay Area until December 13). Again, I had a great time in Mexico. I hope to return soon. I'll also see my "brother" Alex and his wife Gaby whenever I can. They are truly family. c/s

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