Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
- TULA: Messengers of the SunVisual and Critical Studies of Small Towns in MexicoIllustrations and Type by Wesley Ryan ClappTULA, OR TOLLAN AS IT WAS CALLED BY THE NATIVES, MEANS "PLACE NEAR THE TULES." It is located in the state of Hidalgo in Central Mexico. Tula is an important archaeological site, especially because the city existed many centuries before its formal founding in A.D. 900. According to great interpreter of Mexican culture Laurette Sejourne, Tula was the final city in the great Toltec tradition. This civilization was based on the cult of Quetzalcoatl, who was unlike other gods and fundamental to all ancient-Mexican religions.
While the other gods incarnated natural forces such as earth, the sun, and the rain, Quetzalcoatl was an extremely human deity. Contradictory myths surround him- from being a creator of the universe to a Christlike figure and benefactor of humanity who gave us the gift of corn. According to another myth, Quetzalcoatl was a white man with a beard who came from the east as a victor over his enemies and who, after leaving his land, promised to return. During the colonial era, certain Christian clerics tried to link him with the apostle Thomas who had come to preach the gospel, but the archaeological evidence does not support this theory. Astronomically, Quetzalcoatl is identified with the planet Venus, the morning star.
His name meant the "plumed serpent," a symbol of the union between spirit and matter: the beautiful quetzal bird represented the former and the serpent the latter. A deity who was a great teacher of the arts and of civilization, he was also the founder of the ancient Tollan, which some compare to Teotihuacan. There is a beautiful temple in his honor at the site. Quetzalcoatl is the god of the spirit and a great civilizer who confronted his rival, the malevolent Tezcatlipoca, a capricious god of chance and a devil-like spirit.
While Tezcatlipoca was in favor of human sacrifice, Quetzalcoatl rejected this practice and in its place preached spiritual perfection through artistic creation. This is why "Toltec" also came to mean a good artist who was following the directives of Quetzalcoatl. Even though he was primarily venerated in central Mexico, the cult of Quetzalcoatl was later integrated into Mayan culture. The Mayans called him Kukulcan; his presence transformed Mayan art, as can be seen at Chichen Itza.
At a less mythic level, the conflict between Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca could symbolize the eternal fight in Mexico between the agricultural tribes who civilized central Mexico and the constant invasions by the savage tribes who came from the north. It was a fight between civilization and barbarity, between knowledge and ignorance.