To the southeast of Mexico City is the Delegación Iztapalapa, which is one of the largest and most diverse parts of the city. This area is entrenched in many Mexican traditions and although it’s not as touristy as other more well-known areas, it does have a significant amount of places steeped in “real” Mexican culture and is a place one could definitely consider “off the beaten path”. Rising above the dense urban sprawl of Iztapalapa is the Cerro de la Estrella at 213 meters (2,242 meters above sea level), it’s a prominent landmark of the area that is now one of the five archeological areas in Mexico City recognized by the National Institute of History and Archeology (INAH). On the foothills of Cerro de la Estrella, there have been ancient artifacts that have been found that date from the Preclassic Mesoamerican period (2,500 B.C. to 200 A.C.).
The Cerro de la Estrella was known in pre-Hispanic times as Huizachtépetl, and it was the place where the infamous rituals of the New Fire ceremony took place. It was held every 52 years and the Aztecs believed that the sun might actually not come back after this date, so they held a grand ceremony to purify and renew their lives and make generous offerings to the sun god. Fire was used to “bind” these years together; so first all the “old fires” in the city were extinguished, and a new fire was started on the chest of a captive, with finally his heart being ripped out to fuel this “New Fire”, which was then taken to other parts in the rest of the city. There have been bodies found on this hill that are more than 2000 years old, and there’s a small museum dedicated to teaching its history.
Yet not all rituals held at Cerro de la Estrella are gruesome in nature, nowadays it is the site where the largest Passion of the Christ reenactment in the world takes place, with one million visitors attending annually. It’s also used for exercise and recreation, where people come to mountain bike or for hiking, the end of the trail is the summit which offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the Valle de México. “Off the beaten path” might mean that it’s a little tricky getting there, but the “Cerro de la Estrella” Metro station from Línea 8 leaves you right at the foot of the hill and a Taxi or Uber could take you to the archeological site or museum which is just a few minutes away.
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