Sunday, December 4, 2011

The modern construction of an "ancient" monument

The Centro Ceremonial Otomi ("Otomi Ceremonial Center"), near Toluca, Mexico, was built by the State of Mexico in 1980 to honor the Otomi peoples and their culture. It is one of the strangest built environments I have ever been in. Read about my visit last year on the blog from the Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Project. And if you are in central Mexico, go see the place (especially if you are a fan of James Bond movies!).


  1. What a strange place, and strange thing for a government to build! Do you happen to know any published work about this monument specifically (i.e., not the Otomi generally), treating it from an anthropological perspective with regards to governmental authority, heritage and memory, etc.? I'm teaching a course next semester on monumentality, and this looks like it has potential to be a good case study--though not if nobody has written anything about it. I just typed "Otomi Ceremonial Center" into google scholar, but didn't come up with much...

  2. James-

    I have not seen any analysis of this feature at all. I searched both English and spanish language literature. My info on its history and context are from one or two signs at the site, plus discussion with people in Toluca who remember when it was built. The general ideas was that the Nahuatl peoples of the State of Mexico had Teotihuacan and other sites as monuments, so the Otomis and Mazahuas needed their own monuments. The Mazahuas got some kind of museum/craft center (which I have not seen). It may be beside the point to mention that Teotihuacan was almost certainly not built by Nahuatl speakers.

    Check Wikipedia (not sure if it was the English or Spanish version), for information about how the center is used for modern ceremonies by Otomi people. I think that usage is probably by a small group of new-age folks, but I don't know, and I didn't want to get involved in modern Otomi identity politics. One further fact: an Otomi indigenous activist, who has an organization that petitions the state for resources, has expressed his pride in the monument.