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Welcome to our blog. We are on an unplanned journey -- through Europe, Africa and, well, life. Join us on the journey!

Marking Time at Canada de le Virgen Pyramid

Marking Time at Canada de le Virgen Pyramid

Albert Coffee, archeologist.

Albert Coffee, archeologist.

You know that feeling you get when you meet people who truly, passionately love what they do? That feeling of contagious curiosity? That feeling of being totally engrossed in what they are saying even if you didn’t know a lick about the subject until you heard them? 

Meet archeologist Albert Coffeeof Albert Coffee Tours and Rossana Quiroz Ennis, head of the Celestial Observation Program at the Canada site.

Astronomer Rossana Quiroz Ennis/Tripadvisor

Astronomer Rossana Quiroz Ennis/Tripadvisor

For more than a decade Rosanna has explored the cycles of the Sun, Moon, Venus and the constellations from the viewpoint of the central Canada de la Virgen pyramid on the archeological grounds. As she shares her scientific findings and images captured over those years her eyes shine like the stars she studies. It is, she says, a work of the heart and mind.

Coffee, one of scientists who helped excavate the site, has provided a colorful, easy-to-understand but at the same time incredibly academic survey of the multi-building and botanical garden site to more than 6,000 people since it was opened to the public several years ago. Joe and I count ourselves lucky to be among them. 

Movie title: Acacia tree and Nopal Cactus, A Love Story.

Movie title: Acacia tree and Nopal Cactus, A Love Story.

Among other things, like the gory detail that the 11 skeletons found at the site so far had no hands, feet or heads, Albert provided a detailed explanation something I'd been wondering about -- that is why the nopal cactui here seem to be growing on trees and not solo up from the ground. Turns out Nopals and local trees, in particular the Acacia tree, have developed a symbiotic relationship over the years to prtect each other from the wind. The Nopal allows the tree to take root and in exchange, the heave cactus is supported and help up by the trunk of the tree. Not that that has anything to do with archeology or astronomy, but man does Albert know his stuff.

All I can say is wow. WOW. 

And I wanna be an archeologist-astronomer when I grow up just based on the enthusiasm of these two experts and their eagerness to share what they know. Coffee’s website promises the “most informative, accurate and well-presented tour of the site.” Boy does he (and Rosanna) deliver. 

The central pyramid at Canada de los Virgin archeological site.

The central pyramid at Canada de los Virgin archeological site.

In five hours I learned more about the mathematical, astronomical and architectural genius of pyramid builders and their ancestors than I ever learned in high school — especially since what little I did learn back than left me thinking the Mayans cornered the market on pyramids and astronomy.  

And yet the Toltecs, not the Mayans, build these ruins which served as ceremonial spaces, elite residences, burial grounds and time keeping instruments aligned precisely to the movements of the celestial bodies between 540 and 1050 A.D. Like all pyramids around the world, they were built on the backs of men. Literally, men carried the stones from all over the country – here you can see the different colored stones from different regions. No pack animals, no wheels. 

Stone colors from different regions brought to build the pyramid and surrounding structures.

Stone colors from different regions brought to build the pyramid and surrounding structures.

The structures at Canada de los Virgin are sizable and laid out to line up with the moon and planets. In essence, the buildings themselves are calendars and clocks. 

How does the calendar work? The center circular stair-sided structure here faces the north. That’s the direction to look to see stars spinning around in a circle as the year progresses (think of the a planetarium show!) Over the year, the moon moves up the stairs of the pyramid, rising and descending in line with different steps at key times in the lunar calendar. As solstice periods come and go, they cause several planets to align with the steps as well. All of this makes great sense once you visit the museum run by Rosanna who has photographed the rising and falling lunar cycles over the years to prove the pyramid’s use in this manner. 

An image take by Astronomer Rosanna Quinoz Ennis as part of her study of how ancient astronomers used the Canada de los Virgin to track the lunar year.

An image take by Astronomer Rosanna Quinoz Ennis as part of her study of how ancient astronomers used the Canada de los Virgin to track the lunar year.

Seriously, I’ve never been much into ancient astrology, but Amazon just got a big order from me. I’m hooked.

Not to mention, Albert’s Tour included a simply incredible lunch made by Rosanna and her kitchen team at her new restaurant. Did I say it as incredible? INCREDIBLE. 

Word for the wise: Do not come to San Miguel and miss this experience. 

Musical Genius at Rancho Zanduga

Musical Genius at Rancho Zanduga

Today in the Garden

Today in the Garden