City Life Mexico city: Strong arm of the law hits Aztec temple

WHEN A drunken policeman apparently misunderstood the concept of a flyover and launched his car some 25 feet through the air last weekend to crash land on a stone ceremonial platform beside the Templo Mayor in the heart of Mexico City, the public was absolutely horrified.

The scandal was not over an inebriated officer behind the wheel at 1am - such an everyday occurrence won't cause much of a stir in this cynical capital. But irreparable damage to a 14th-century Aztec stucco stairway and ugly oil stains caused considerable breast-beating.

Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, who directs the museum on the temple site, was dumbfounded when a magistrate freed the policeman on bail after just seven days. "This is imprudent," he said. "We cannot permit a gentleman in these conditions, who ought to be taking care of us, to destroy the patrimony in such an outrageous way."

The accidental rediscovery of the Templo Mayor was relatively recent - electrical workers laying cable for an underground system in 1978 came across twin altars to the rain god and war god and put their pickaxes aside to gape at a mural of eagle warriors and their victims' skulls.

Eventually, the metro was rerouted and archaeologists uncovered some seven thousand relics spread among 110 altars. Although the most famous treasures, such as the massive calendar stone, are displayed some miles away at the National Museum of Anthropology, curious visitors come by the thousands to see the original site.

A great turquoise disc, inlaid with 15,000 mosaic pieces that forms a circle of seven linked warriors, was unveiled for the first time on Friday after a five-year restoration programme. Ordinary citizens take immense pride in the glories of pre- conquest Mexico. The ruins of enormous cities built by the Aztecs, Mayas, Toltecs and Olmecs are a testament to civilisations that pre-dated the arrival of the Spanish. Many Mexicans were rather annoyed at recent archaeological discoveries in Mayapan that punctured one long-held belief. Analysis of bone fragments this summer revealed that the Mayans had suffered from syphilis at least a century before the conquistadores arrived.

Although the Spaniards stole the foundation stones of the city's cathedral from the Tenochtitlan temple more than 400 years ago, most Mexicans hold both structures in equal regard.

Ancient symbols are stillemblematic of popular Mexican culture: the skull motif, the murals and bold graffiti, even the strident colours once painted over the Aztec and Maya structures. Modern Mexican builders often daub magenta next to brilliant yellow, while others are partial to an intense ultra-indigo that seems to shimmer in the sunlight. The pyramids were once just as garish.

Elsewhere few politicians would attempt a $13m re-make of a museum in an election year of a country so steeped in economic turmoil. But President Ernesto Zedillo is intent on refashioning the National Museum of Anthropology into a state-of-the art showpiece, for completion in December 2000 - just as he leaves office.

But in Mexico, where locals typically outnumber foreign tourists in the museum, any criticism of the project - for instance suggesting that it is wrong-headed when the descendants of the honoured tribes go hungry in the provinces - is muted.

Suggested Topics
News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again