To Conquer Or Not To Conquer, A Moral Question

templeI’ve always appreciated the beauty, culture and rich history of Mexico and Spain and finally planned out the perfect vacation; visiting incredible areas like Lake Texococo in modern day Mexico and attempting to follow the ancient conquistadors and experience some of the areas that they may have walked, lived and made history.

Beginning with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and extending until 1892, the powerful Spanish Empire expanded across the majority of Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and a good deal of North America.

It was my goal to visit some the places where Conquistadors like Juan Ponce de Leon explored the New World and enjoy all the festivals and iconic celebrations along the way.

Of all the ancient empires I’ve studied over the years, the Aztecs (and Mayans in Mexico and Central America) really captured my interests in a big way. On one hand, they were a brutal and barbaric people, but on the other, they were incredibly intelligent and industrious.

These amazing cultures built, massive cities filled with impressive pyramids and monuments that are still standing today. On my trip I visited several archaeological wonders they managed to develop during their extraordinary rule in their prehistoric world.

While in Mexico, I walked the Avenue of the Dead, which is lined with several temples and palaces, including the legendary Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. I also spent the day at Mexico City’s National Museum because I’ve always wanted to see the Aztec Calendar Stone.

Next, I toured the Palenque ruins known for its Temple of Inscriptions, the 4 story astronomical observation tower and the Group of the Cross.

From Mexico, I journeyed to Yucatan’s ancient Uxmal city and checked out the Governor’s Palace with its intricately carves, 20,000 stones and the impressive Pyramid of the Magicians. Next I toured the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and the renowned Sacred Cenote, the Castle pyramid and the Group of a Thousand Columns.

I also made time to visit Mount Teide in Tenerife, Spain, considered to be the third largest volcano in the world, and took a cable car ride to the summit of the mountain. The views at the top were remarkable and included sights of what is left of the ancient caldera wall which is surrounded by newer lava flows.

Besides exploring the many ancient sites and their breathtaking architectural wonders, I immersed myself in the unique cultures by enjoying many of the festivals and the Day of the Dead celebration, a grand occasion that actually celebrates the lives of those who have passed.

To the indigenous of Mexico and other Latin countries, death was regarded as the passage to a new life. Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead on November 1st and 2nd and most of the month of October is spent preparing for the celebration, making baked good and special treats.

There are two very special communities where this historic ritual is particularly impressive: Mixquic, a small community in Mexico City, and Janitzio, an enchanting small island in the beautiful Michoacan, also known for its Monarch butterfly reserves. Michoacan is one of the most representative of the blending of the two cultures, and should definitely be on your bucket list as you make your way through the world of the Conquistadors of days gone by.