Eduardo Matos Moctezuma: “Spain and Mexico are linked by insoluble historical ties”

Princess of Asturias Award


Mexican archaeologist, pioneer in investigation of Tenochtitlan, criticizes partisan view of history that has handled political debate

Eduardo Matos Moctezuma in the grounds of the Templo Mayor.
Eduardo Matos Moctezuma in the grounds of the Templo Mayor.
  • Mexico City window to tenochtitlan

Mexican archaeologist and anthropologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, the main driver of excavations in Mexico City’s historic center and one of the leading experts on pre-Hispanic cultures, has been awarded the 2022 Princess of Asturias Social Sciences Award for “his exceptional intellectual rigor.” “His scientific intelligence” and “his capacity for dissemination and social commitment”When it is granted a distinction that means recognition of efforts to rebuild – in an objective and meticulous manner – the glory of the civilizations of Mesoamerica.

The Princess of Asturias Award is the final touch to the lofty career of an academic who, at the age of 81, shies away from the political use of history, defended among others by Mexican President Anders Manuel López Obrador: “I have always been critical of distorted views that interpret the past as a battle between good people and bad people and also manipulate historical events for partisan use., I never hid: Spain and Mexico are linked by insoluble historical and cultural ties, so we must look to the future and fight to bring those ties even closer,” Matos Moctezuma admitted to El Mundo.

After receiving a call from Oviedo in the middle of the night, sleepy and visibly shaken, the archaeologist admitted that “he didn’t imagine he was going to win it, a very valuable candidate, but I am extremely proud and satisfied to receive such a prestigious award.At the age of 81 and having devoted more than half a century to the study of Mexica culture, Matos Moctezuma remembers that everything would have been very different if he had met his family’s wishes. When he enrolled at the National School of Anthropology and History. (ENAH), his mother asked him if “wouldn’t it be nice if you also study in banking school in the morning and in the afternoon you dedicate yourself to Other?” Fortunately, Matos Moctezuma followed his instincts and managed to build an impeccable and exemplary professional career.

31 hrs HE ALREADY ENAH . was the director ofGeneral Secretary of the Mexican Society of Anthropology and President of the Council of Archaeology. Their lives changed on February 21, 1978, when a group of state electricity company workers doing maintenance work on a building in the Mexican capital’s historic center came across a stone in the shape of a shield, Coyolxauqui. More than three meters in diameter, it represents a lunar goddess dissected by Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, and who, according to pre-Hispanic code, was very close to the sacred complex of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Mexica.

His discovery and the urging of researchers such as Matos Moctezuma aroused the interest of authorities, who agreed to allocate resources to unearth the myriad Aztec remains buried under the sprawling Mexico city 500 years ago. Award-winning archaeologist Templo Meyer was in charge of creating and directing the project, One of the most important and ambitious archaeological plans of the 20th century on the American continent. The aim was to bring to light the remains of the great ceremonial center of the Mexica, composed of more than 78 buildings and crowned by the Templo Mayor, a grand 45-metre-high building where the most important events of the political life of the pre-Hispanic Empire took place. and religious life.

Matos Moctezuma reminds this newspaper that the first time he was able to show the world the treasures being recovered from underground was in the late 1970s, at a symposium organized by the University of Zaragoza. “There was a great lack of knowledge at that time. Fortunately, we were able to start the excavation 44 years ago and even today my colleagues continue this difficult task.“, he explains. The historic center of the Mexican capital is considered a cultural heritage of humanity and any underground movement, such as public works or building improvements, must be notified to the National Institute of History and Archaeology.

Over the years, this mechanism has made it possible to discover numerous pre-Hispanic remains: the palace of Exycatl, where the Spaniards stayed upon arrival in Tenochtitlan, the temple of Ehcatl, the god of the wind, The head of the ball game court, the deadly game practiced by Mexico, or the remains of Calmcac, the school where the sons of the nobles studied. Given the difficulty involved in exposing these remains buried under Mexico City, archaeologists are currently promoting archeological windowsWith which it is demanded that today’s society be able to peek into the past that the Spaniards had buried under the foundation of the Viceroy’s capital.

To date, more than 40 observation points have been established around Xacallo in the Mexican capital. One of the most impressive discoveries is Huey Tzompantli, A memorial offering to the god of war made of over 600 skulls of sacrificed humans, Despite the fact that his visit is not yet open to the general public, EL Mundo was able to access and document it in a report published in December 2021. Ral Barrera, the person in charge of the excavation, admitted to the newspaper that, had it not been for his mentor, Matos Moctezuma, “he would not have been able to finish the creation of this archaeological puzzle”.

Away from fieldwork for many years, Matos Moctezuma wrote More than 500 research papers on pre-Hispanic cultures, One of his most relevant works is Life and Death in Templo Mayor, death on the edge of obsidian You death among mexico, Matos Moctezuma holds chairs at the Mexican Academy of History and Language, is an honorary doctor of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the University of Colorado, and in 2017, he became the first Mexican to hold a professorship at Harvard University. ,

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