Worlds Collide: Mexico City

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(24-29, June, 2019)

In 1519, two worlds faced each other for the first time. On a bridge in Lake Texcoco, Emperor Montezuma greeted the Spanish captain Hernán Cortés. Two empires met without knowing that together they were building a new civilization, the mestizo culture of the Americas. Mexico City stands out as the center of the exchanges and combinations that have molded the Western Hemisphere. Going to Mexico City is no tourist trip: it’s a traveler’s journey to the center of the Americas, to the foundations of who we are today.

The original inhabitants of Mexico, the Nahuas (NAH-wahz) and the Spanish make up those foundations. The Nahuas’ cultural zone stretched from Zacatecas to the edge of Guatemala, and included various communities who spoke a common language and shared many beliefs about reality. Remarkably, as our trip to Mexico City shows, the Spaniards did not eliminate the rich traditions of the Nahuas. As the candle of time burns, the cultural wax of various ages flows together and extends its own base. Consequently, Mexico has not diminished with time, but has grown stronger.

The people whose capital city fell to the Spanish called themselves the Mexica (me-SHEE-kah), whose name lives on today. The Mexica were not always on top: only a few generations before the Spanish came, they were poor subjects of the Tepanec empire. Struggling for position, the Mexica rose to power, formed alliances, and came to rule most of Mesoamerica before the Spanish arrived.

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