Best Places To Get Spiritual In Mexico
This list is NOT about religion even if some of the recommendations involve churches of specific denominations. YAHglobal.Com does not endorse any specific sect, not because we want to avoid trouble or lost ad revenue, but because we respect most (except ones that promote violence or intolerance) everyone's belief system.
Whew, that was probably the most intense two sentences on this whole site. Ok, moving forward. The key word in the title "Best Places To Get Spiritual In Mexico" is "Spiritual". This refers to an empowering feeling, one that inspires, puts you into a contemplative trance or simply gives you a feeling that you can't quite put your finger on. It can happen on a lush mountainside for some, for others on the ocean. Heck some of you might find enlightenment on the golf course (we don't doubt that for one minute!). What we tried to narrow down with this list are places that seem to be unanimously revered by locals and travelers to Mexico alike to provide that sense of serenity or connection to another power of sorts, regardless your beliefs on the matter. So put your differences aside and soak up these spiritually uplifting sites. If anything, they'll make for some pretty cool additions to your photographic library that someone you know will appreciate.
Disclaimer: We're pretty sure that this is about as deep as we will get on the site so please continue to keep your expectations of us low in regards to matters such as this ;)
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The history of Our Lady Quadalupe goes back to Dec 12, 1531 when Aztec Juan Diego claimed to have a vision of the Virgin Mary appear before him en route to Mexico City. He ran and told his tale to a Spanish Bishop who dismissed his accounting as delusion and demanded proof. Defeated, Juan set to return home when the Virgin Mary appeared to him once again, blooming roses at his feet. Juan rushed back to the Bishop to show him this proof as roses were no where near in season at this time of year (and FTD Flowers had yet to opens its doors some 400 years later). When Juan presented the roses, the bundle inside of his apron fell to the floor revealing a glorious icon of the Virgin Mary. The Bishop immediately ordered the church to be built in Mexico City in her honor. Don Juan's experience, with the help of Spanish Missionaries, aided in a multitude of Aztecs being converted to Catholicism.
To further add to the mystique of Our Lady Quadalupe, on November 14 1921, a factory worker in defiance of the Catholic church placed a bomb within a few feet of the image imprinted apron of the Virgin Mary, with the blast destroying marble stairs, exploding windows from across the street, bending brass ornaments and melting away other fixtures. The cloth apron was left unscathed.
In 1976, a second basilica was built nearby to accommodate the continually growing congregation and although much grander in scale, we recommend still visiting the original church, Antigua Basilica, to truly feel the sense of history and then proceed to the new Basilica to view the image of the Virgin Mary, hanging encased in bulletproof glass above the alter.
Studies of the image have been conducted over recent decades, using infared tools and the like, only to increase the validity of Juan Diego's story in the eyes of the Vatican. Analysis has indicated that the image was not, and could not have been painted (no brush strokes or pressing of any kind) and that the colors had not come from an identifiable source (mineral, vergetable or animal). Juan Diego was declared by the Vatican in 2002 to be a named a saint, thus becoming the first Mexican to receive this honor.
Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world to date.
Historical Source Material: Our Lady Guadalupe Website
Teotihuacan ("teh-oh-tee-wa-KHAN") means "place where gods were born". The Aztecs bevlieved that the gods assembled here to create the universe and so this city was built around 300 AD to honor, worship, and lay sacrifice to these deities. The main monuments erected within Teotihuacan are the Pyramind of the Sun (depicted on the left and is the third largest in the world), the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.
In a country full of esoteric places of worship built by ancient civilizations, Teotihuacan is among the most mysterious, while at the same time has proven to be as important to the region as Rome was on the other side of the world. In fact, at it's grandest around 500 AD, Teotihuacan surpassed Rome in population as well as with sheer size and structure. However, unlike the gradual and well documented plight of Rome, this civilization seemed to disappear suddenly and without explanation around 700 AD. A second population appeared in the early 1300's with the arrival of the Aztecs which gave Teotihuacan its actual name. However the Aztec tenure as citizens of Teotihuacan was also shortlived and surrounded in uncertainty. The speculation of the demise of the two populations are part of what makes the ruins so interesting to visit, and is sure to spark engaging conversation with your travel partners or within your own cerebral cortex. Explanations run amuck with theories ranging from epidemic disease brought by ship from the Spaniards around 1520 (in regards to the Aztecs) to other world alien interference. The monuments built within Teotihuacan were created for human sacrifce to the gods, to stave off the end of the world, which was impending according to the ancient's belief in the cycle of the sun. However the thousands of skeletons left from ritual killings found within the ruins did little to save these civilizations.
The magnitude of both the architecture of the site and its history is enough to enthrall even the most jaded enthusiast of ancient peoples and culture.
The Teotihuacan Ruins are 30 miles north east of Mexico City. You can arrange/hire a car through your hotel in Mexico City or take one of the frequent (every 30 min between 5AM and 10PM) buses from the Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte. Keep an eye out for the AUTOBUSES SAHAGUN sign at the northwest end of the terminal and board bus 8. Make sure you stay in communication with the driver in regards to delays and especially the departure time of the last bus.
Historical Source Material: Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan - UNESCO World Heritage List
Capilla del Rosario
Church of Santo Domingo, Puebla, Mexico
Walk into the Capilla Del Posario and try not to drop to your knees when you look upon the beautifully constructed interior of this Baroque chapel in Puebla, Mexico. The walls and dome above are decorated with the smallest attention to detail in gold leaf and plaster, creating elaborate dimensional images of angels, cherubs, and saints with additional golden vines serving as frames for exquisitely painted depictions of the rosary. So organic are these creations it seems as if they are moving as your eyes pass from one image to the next. You'll wonder how something so intricate could have been built way back in 1690, only to realize that places so elegant with ornate detail could only have come from periods centuries ago.
Kabah is yet another fascinating Mayan Ruins site in the Yucatan Peninsula. What makes this one so unique is the Palace of Masks, where the same mask is repeated over and over again on the walls of this well detailed stone monument. The mayans have not shown this style of repetition on any of their other structures or works of art, thus making the site evn more curious. The face depicted on each is that of Chac, the God of Rain & Lightning. So not only does Kabah provide you with the chance to soak in and question the reason for existence of this rare Mayan find, it will give those of you that live anywhere near the infamously wet Pacific North West (North America) a face to voice your gripes to.
Kabah is close to Mérida-Campeche road and just over 12 miles south of Uxmal, 75 miles from Campeche and 85 miles from Merida, both on MEX (hwy) 261.
Chichen Itza Archaeological Site, Yucatan
David Copperfield, David Blaine, and Chris Angel have got nothing on the Ancient Mayans. Without the aids of smoke, mirrors, and TV land trickery, the Mayans were able to take their immense knowledge of the weather, sun/lunar patterns, and the environment around them to manipulate the masses through predictions that saw fruition and illusions that made gods come to life.
The Kukulcan Pyramid, found on the ruins of Chichen Itza was a very significant tool for the Mayan priests and was the site for both spiritual ceremony and sacrifice, human sacrifice. Mayans, the tricky bunch that they were, built the steps of Pyramid Kukulcan in such a manner that during Spring and Fall equinoxes (March 21 & September 21) the setting sun light cascading upon the steps creates the appearance of a massive serpent descending down from the top of the Pyramid. Thousands of visitors every year flock to Chichen Itza to see this mastery of illusion.
Ok, in reality upon witnessing the semi-annual event, one might find the results to not be as impressive looking as seeing Chris Angel floating above the Luxor Pyramid in Las Vegas, but given the constraints they had at the time, you have to give the Ancient Mayans their due.
Eitherway, when you visit the Pyramid Kukulcan in Chichen Itza and spend enough time, alone if possible, in contemplation of what this mysterious civilization accomplished, you cannot help but feel a sense of total and complete awe.
Cubilete Hill is marked by the 65 foot Cristo Rey del Cubilete (Christ the King Shrine) statue, said to be at the exact geographic center of Mexico. It is one of the most visited spiritual sites in all of Mexico. In January, there is a pilgrimage to the shrine in celebration of the Epiphany. Thousands can be seen on horseback riding up to the site to pay homage. As far as your personal experience on Cubilete Hill is concerned, it can depend upon and be skewed by your religious affiliation, but it still makes quite the impression on your psyche. If you're into feeding off of the "energy" of large crowds, we recommend going during the pilgrimage, otherwise sitting in solace at the center of Mexico can be quite uplifting on its own.