Features May 5, 2009 By John Dickie
santa muerte SANTA MUERTE
Illustration by Peter Karpick


Five hundred years ago, Mexico City, then known as Tenochtitlán, was an island citadel of white limestone plazas, temples, and causeways that crowned the vast Lake Texcoco. With a population of around 300,000, it was one of the grandest cities on earth. When Spanish soldiers first set their eyes on the Aztec capital, they wondered if they were not dreaming.
The city’s ceremonial heart lay where the historic old town is today, where the last remnants of the great white city can be seen: just a few hundred square feet of ruins next to the Cathedral, itself built using the stones of dismantled pyramids. Somewhere near here, there stood a temple dedicated to Mictecacihuatl, the Queen of the Underworld, Goddess of Death. Forced underground by the Inquisition and out of sight for centuries, Mictecacihuatl, now transfigured, is on the rise once again, in almost exactly the same place where she was once revered by the Aztecs….

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