Amazing City and Mural Paintings of Cacaxtla, Tlaxcala a magical place in Central Mexico

A map shows the location of Cacaxtla in the Puebla-Tlaxcala valley. Image: Google Maps

The Cacaxtla-Xochitécatl archaeological site is one of the most interesting and unique in all of Mexico. Aside from its massive structures and breathtakingly beautiful vistas, this ancient city in Central Mexico boasts a rather out-of-place feature — Maya murals. 

Cacaxtla’s seeming out-of-place murals are without a doubt the site’s main attraction in an archaeological site brimming with fascinating features and history. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Though they each have their own entrance, for all intents and purposes Cacaxtla and Xochitécatl were part of the same Tlaxcaletcan ceremonial center. Because of this fact, and for simplicity, from here onwards we will refer to the ancient city as simply Cacaxtla.

A sculpture with arguably Olmec features is found near the entrance to the archaeological site. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The archaeological site of Cacaxtla is located in the south of the state of Tlaxcala, in the municipality of Natívitas, and tucked within the Puebla-Tlaxcala valley. 

Photograph taken atop a round pyramid-like structure with a Christian cross in the foreground and the Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes in the background. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Little is known about the foundation of Cacaxtla, including the precise date of its foundation, which was likely in the 5th century CE. The name Cacaxtla comes from the Nahuatl word cacaxtli, making reference to the large baskets used by merchants to carry goods.

Cacaxtla’s so-called spiral pyramid near the core of the ceremonial center. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

It has been widely speculated that Cacaxtla may have been established by either Maya or Olmec peoples, displaced from their own faraway cities. As we will see later, this hypothesis makes a good deal of sense when analyzing the art and architecture of the city, but otherwise has no data to back it up. That being said, there is good evidence for the existence of Maya settlements in Central Mexico, as is the example of Maya neighborhoods in Teotihuacán

Detail of a bird among anthropomorphic ears of corn in Cacaxtla, Tlaxcala. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

After the fall of Cacaxtla, the region would be dominated by the Tlaxcaletecan civilization, which would remain a thorn in the side of the powerful Aztec empire until its conquest by Spain. Perhaps, for this reason, a certain degree of historical resentment still exists against the modern state of Tlaxcala. This resentment is often manifested by minimizing it or making fun of its small size, or denying its existence in jest altogether

A mural in Tlaxcala city depicts a battle between a Tlaxcaletcan and an Aztec counterpart. Photo: Wikimedia Foundation

The archaeological site was re-discovered in 1975 by farmers from the nearby town of San Miguel del Milagro who began to find artifacts in the areas surrounding the mounds of the then-pasture lands. 

Source: Yucatan Magazine

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