Isn’t it true that we often don’t see what’s just beneath our noses? Take, for example, the Mesoamerican pyramids sitting on a hilltop with breathtaking vistas, only about a half-hour’s drive from the old Spanish-colonial city of San Miguel de Allende in the central mountains of Mexico.
Although I’ve been happily living in San Miguel for more than six years, I had never been to this world-class archaeological site. That is, until this past week, when my friend Be Scott from Taos, New Mexico, came to visit me here for the first time.
Be and I drove to this 40-acre site, Cañada de la Virgen, just 15 miles west of San Miguel, with my Mexican friends Ramiro Gutierrez, a professional guide from the city of Guanajuato, and Edith Matehuala, my Spanish teacher in San Miguel.
At the visitors center, we paid our entry fee — just 70 pesos ($3.50 USD) each — and, along with about fifteen other tourists, boarded the pristine-clean, new shuttle bus that wound its way up the winding cobblestone road leading to the pyramids.
At a certain point, the bus let us all off, and we walked the rest of the way (I, in skimpy sandals – not the proper footwear) up more winding uphill cobblestone paths. Fortunately, the day was glorious, the hilltop breeze was refreshing, the views were spectacular, and no one was in a rush.
Our group included a patient and knowledgeable Cañada de la Virgen guide, who at certain junctures stopped to explain (in fast Spanish) what we were seeing. Happily for Be and me, both Ramiro and Edith could translate for us afterward.
Here are just some of the many photos I took of our day to make you feel you were there with us:
At last, we reached our destination, which appeared to me like Oz. This pyramid (above), known as The House of the Thirteen Heavens, is one of the three main structures at the site. According to the website www.albertcoffeetours.com , these structures, “occupied between 540 and 1050 AD, served as ceremonial spaces, elite residences, burial grounds, and time-keeping instruments that are aligned precisely to the movements of the celestial bodies.”
All of the written explanations and descriptions in the museum are in Spanish. But these ancient pieces of pottery, excavated at the site, spoke loudly to me — wordlessly — about the people who handcrafted them so long ago.
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- For those without transportation or seeking bilingual guides, there are a number of excellent tour operators in San Miguel de Allende who can provide expert guides and transportation, including (or especially) Albert Coffee, an archaeologist who helped in the excavation of Cañada de la Virgen. Be sure to visit his website for more information: albertcoffeetours.com .
- To see a four-minute YouTube video, “Mexico’s Best Kept Secret Pyramid,” which will give you a quick tour and a bit more information – such as the answer to my burning question — How did Cañada de la Virgen get its name? – go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ij7HwdMnTgA .
- To contact my friend Ramiro Gutierrez regarding other tours in and around Guanajuato, call: 473-181-1946.
- To reach my excellent maestra Edith Matehuala regarding private Spanish lessons in San Miguel, call: 415-144-2861.