Capital of the Toltec Empire for over four centuries, Tula still retains that imperious grandeur that so many ancient settlements have lost. During the height of Toltec domination, Tula Allende was second only in size to the Meso-American settlement of Teotihuacan, while its influence could be felt as far afield as the entire Southern hemisphere of the United States of America. Bounded by eclectic landscapes of hilly terrain, vast marshlands and low lying pastures typical of the Central Eastern state of Hidalgo, Tula enjoys a semi-arid climate with only periodic rainfall. Its a characteristic responsible for the booming agricultural economies that have existed since the Toltec period and the emerging trend for adventure vacations, at the heart of Hidalgo.
Spanning an area in excess of 5 square miles, the Toltec ruins of Tula remain one of the largest intact settlements to be found anywhere in Mexico. Shrouded in many a controversial myth are the Toltec Warriors, a series of 5 meter high basalt columns standing atop the “The Master of the House of the Dawn” Temple, dedicated to the serpent-god Quetzalcoatl. Legend suggests the figurines are in fact human sacrifices offered to the god by Toltec priests, thus turned to stone as he transformed their souls into spirits of the sky. Its far more possible they were purely carved from the volcanic basalt found commonly among the Trans-Volcanic hills of the area and aligned to coincide with the movement of certain stars (thought to personify deities) in the sky. Nearby lies a collective of reclining “Chac Mool” idols, offering platters to the rain god Tlaloc. They command somewhat more attention for their expressions – thick lips almost pursed in concentration; eyes wide, alert and monitoring all whom dare to venture into this sacred, mysterious realm.
Modern day Tula is similarly laid out to the ancient Toltec Empire. Imperious buildings of Spanish construction litter the central quadrant, including the dreamy Catedral de San Jose. Built during the Porfirian era, the Cathedral exudes a breathtaking beauty, despite the relative simplicity of its lower exterior. The dual towers, decorated in the flamboyant baroque style hint of an inner beauty, while six portales complete the relatively classic styling of the exterior. Mercado Tianguis, to the rear of the cathedral is a startlingly vibrant contrast to the relative tranquility of the grounds, packing in vendors and wares of every conceivable variety. Famed for its time-honored pottery and jewelery crafts, some of the best examples of antique silver-smithing can be found along the stretch of colorful market stalls. In recent years, a number of souvenir retailers have extended their national business to the touristic center of Tula, opening the eyes of visitors to the many facets of rich Mexican food and culture.
A stark departure from the bustle of Hidalgo's modernized state capital, Tula retains a quintessential peace and tranquility befitting of its historic grace. The real magic lies not within the wall-less confines of the picturesque town, but in the murals and pictographs of ancient artists and legacies at Tula Grande, such as the “Wall of Snakes.” If there is any ancient site in Mexico yet to reveal its untimely secrets, you can bet your ten pesos it will be Tula.
Attractions & Things To Do in Tula
Museum Jorge R. Acosta – nestled beside “The Master of the House of the Dawn” Temple, the Museum of Jorge R. Acosta brings to life the mystery of the Toltecs with a wealth of artifacts (such as earthenware, tools and pictographs) recovered by the Mexican architect during the 1920's excavations. To date, it remains one of the largest and most important cultural hordes of Meso-American artifacts in Mexico. Open: Daily, 9 am – 5 pm.