Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Centro Ceremonial Otomi

While Brad, Adrian, Akiko, and I were driving around the wooded mountains northeast of Toluca, looking for an obsidian source (which we found! more on this later, I hope), we stopped in at the "Centro Ceremonial Otomi." This is one of the more bizarre built environments I have ever experienced. It is a huge monumental complex built of stone, located in the mountains northeast of Toluca (in the municipio of Temoaya) with a beautiful view down into the Toluca Valley.

The Centro was built in 1980, by Jorge Jiménez Cantú, governor of the State of Mexico. Its purpose was supposedly to provide a tribute to the Otomi peoples of the state. The design seems to have nothing to do with Otomi culture or history, from the pictorial mosaics to the architectural arrangement and elements To me, it looks like the modernist architectural monuments built by 20th century authoritarian regimes (huge monuments that dwarf human visitors, abstract decoration, large open area for ceremony, etc.).

This complex was  used in the James Bond flick "License to Kill" as the "Olympatec Meditation Institute" (see photo below).

Residents of Toluca said that at one time there was a museum featuring Otomi culture at the monument, but all we saw was a big empty room. There is a small market with traditional crafts. We didn't see much evidence of Otomi activity at the site, although the Wikipedia entry on Temoaya says that Otomi ceremonies are held regularly at the Centro.

The Centro Ceremonial Otomi is open to tourists, and it houses dormitories for athletes who come to train at the high altitude (more than 3,000 meters ASL).

If I were governor and wanted to do something for the Otomi residents of the state, I'd spend my money on education, health, and jobs. If you want to know more about the Otomi, see some of these sources:

Carrasco, Pedro  (1950)  Los Otomíes: cultura e historia prehispánica de los pueblos mesoamericanos de habla otomiana. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City.

Fournier García, Patricia  (2007)  Los Hñähñü del Valle de Mezquital: maguey, pulque y alfarería. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Galinier, Jacques  (1987)  Pueblos de la Sierra Madre: Ethnografía de la comunidad otomí. INI, CEMCA (Centre d'études mexicaines et centraméricaines), Mexico City.

García Castro, René (editor)  (1999)  Códice Xiquipilco-Temoaya y títulos de tierras otomíes: edición facsimilar. El Colegio Mexiquense, Toluca.

Lagarriga Attias, Isabel and Juan Manuel Sandoval Palacios  (1978)  Otomies del norte del Estado de México: una contribución al estudio de la marginalidad. Serie de Antropología Social. Gobierno del Estado de México, Toluca.

Lastra de Suárez, Yolanda  (2006)  El Códice Huichapan (Compact Disk). Serie Códices de México vol. 4. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Lastra de Suárez, Yolanda  (2006)  Los otomies: su lengua y su historia. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Mexico City.

Muñoz Samayoa, Fernando and Irma Ramírez González  (2008)  Artesanías mazahuas y otomíes en el Estado de México. In Homenaje a Noemí Quezada: VI Coloquio Internacional sobre Otopames, edited by Verónica Kugel and Ana María Salazar, pp. 335-348. Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Universidad Nacional de México, Mexico City.

Wright Carr, David Charles  (2005)  Lengua, cultura e historia de los otomíes. Arqueología Mexicana 13(73):26-29.

Wright Carr, David Charles  (2008)  La sociedad prehispánica en las lenguas Náhuatl y Otomí. Acta Universitaria (Universidad de Guanajuato) 18(especial):15-23.


Michael E. Smith said...

Adrian Burke pointed out that the Centro Ceremonial Otomi is marked on Mexican government maps (INEGI) as a "zona arqueológica" !!!!! Well, not yet................

Michael E. Smith said...

I just noticed that all the sources I listed are in Spanish. If you want English-language sources on the Otomi, try some of these:

Brumfiel, Elizabeth M., Tamara Salcedo, and David K. Schafer
1994 The Lip Plugs of Xaltocan: Function and Meaning in Aztec Archaeology. In Economies and Polities in the Aztec Realm, edited by Mary G. Hodge and Michael E. Smith, pp. 113-121. Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, Albany.

Dow, James W.
1996 Ritual Prestation, Intermediate-Level Social Organization, and Sierra Otomí Oratory Groups. Ethnology 35:195-202.

2003 Sierra Otomí Religious Symbolism: Manking Responding to the Natural World. In Mesas and Cosmologies in Mesoamerica, edited by Douglas Sharon, pp. 25-31. Papers, vol. 42. San Diego Museum of Man, San Diego.

Fournier García, Patricia and Lourdes Mondragón Barrios
2003 Haciendas, Ranchos, and the Otomí Way of Life in the Mezquital Valley, Hidalgo, Mexico. Ethnohistory 50:47-68.

Galinier, Jacques
2004 The World Below: Body and Cosmos in Otomí Indian Ritual. Translated by Howard Scott and Phyllis Aronoff. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Manrique C., Leonardo
1969 The Otomí. In Ethnology, part 2, edited by Evon Z. Vogt, pp. 682-724. Handbook of Middle American Indians, vol. 8. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Anonymous said...

You didn't mention that the Olympatec Meditation Institute was based on "the secrets of cone power"!

Charlotte Bell said...

There is a pyramid near San Miguel de Allende.

They believe this was also built by another group of Otomi.

Michael E. Smith said...


There are a number of documented Otomi sites like Cerro de la Virgen. These would make better models for a modern Otomi monument than the modernist/indigenist fantasy they built. But to be fair, I'm not sure whether any of the Otomi sites had been excavated or understood at the time the Centro Ceremonial Otomi was built.