Fascinating discovery of Pre-Aztec housing found near Mexico City


Mexico road project sets up fight over ruins
MEXICO CITY (AP) — When neighbors in the hills east of Mexico City saw backhoes ripping up pre-Hispanic relics for a highway, they did something unexpected in a country where building projects often bulldoze through ruins: They launched protests to stop the digging and demanded an accounting of what is there.

Dozens of residents set up a protest camp and filed complaints with state and federal officials, demanding the highway be rerouted, hoping that studies of the site can help solve an age-old riddle about their town.

A story passed down for generations says Amecameca once stood on another site, and was abandoned after an eruption of the Popocatepetl volcano that looms over the town. Local residents suspect that the ruins, which are believed to date from 700 to 1,100 A.D. and are located on the outskirts of the present-day settlement, could help answer that question.

"This represents a possibility for the people to recover that part of Amecameca's history," said activist Rebeca Lopez Reyes, of the local preservationist group Guardians of the Volcanos. "We could find out what happened there, if it was evacuated or covered."

The idea is not far-fetched: Other settlements around Mexico City have been found half-covered in lava from volcanos that ring the valley, much as Italy's Vesuvius volcano once buried Pompeii.

The ruins detected so far in Amecameca are not particularly spectacular. Only about 120 square yards (meters) of the estimated 5-acre (2-hectare) site have been excavated, revealing stone and clay footings for houses that may have supported upper walls of wood or clay wattle.

But the very ordinariness may mean the site is unusually significant.

"What makes this important is that it is a residential area, not a ceremonial or religious site," said Felipe Echenique, a historian who serves as leader of the academic workers' union for the National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH, which is in charge of reviewing the site.

"In Mexico, we really have very little evidence of how the cities really were, or how people lived," said Echenique, who was not involved in the dig but is familiar with preliminary findings.

Towering pyramids in Mexico like Chichen Itza or temple complexes like Uxmal are well known, but the vast urban centers that supported those ceremonial sites have largely disappeared.

The housing compounds were apparently constructed by one of the still-unnamed cultures that populated the Valley of Mexico long before the Aztecs appeared in the area in 1325 and founded Tenochtitlan, the precursor to Mexico City.

Lopez Reyes said researchers called in by the INAH to investigate the site of the proposed roadway have found ceramic pots, bones and a stone serpent's head, suggesting that the god Quetzacoatl, "the Feathered Serpent," may have been worshipped there centuries before the Aztecs paid him homage.

The Institute has not released a formal report on what was found, saying researchers needed more time.
The few excavations of residential areas carried out so far in Mexico have yielded fascinating details.

In Teotihuacan, one of the biggest pre-Hispanic cities located northeast of Mexico City, some houses appear to have been illuminated by narrow doorways that opened onto central patios with shallow pools that acted as "water mirrors" to direct light inside the rooms. Techniques for building windows were apparently not yet known.  Investigators say similar discoveries could emerge from Amecameca.

"In what has been excavated so far ... there some strange settlement patterns that are emerging," said Echenique. For example, between one housing compound and another, researchers found an empty area that contained no relics — something that would be unusual in a densely populated area unless it represented a border between neighborhoods, a street, or contained some long-vanished wood structure.

Perhaps the most unusual thing is that local residents were the ones who noted the relics and called in the researchers.

"The inhabitants of Amecameca were more or less following the work on the roadway, and when they saw that there were a lot of relics coming up, they notified the Institute," Echenique said.

Progress has often trumped history in Mexico, where roads have regularly been pushed through ruins.
In Mexico City, the lava-buried remains of the ancient Cuicuilco culture, with its famed round pyramid, are crowded and partly covered by shopping malls, housing developments, a major freeway and even a college for archaeologists.

The Amecameca protesters have set up a camp to guard against construction work or looters and to explain the ruins to passers-by. They are asking the road be rerouted.  "The planned route wouldn't have to be changed that much," Lopez Reyes said.

Authorities have not yet commented on the demands, and the builders of the roadway, known as the Mexican Beltway, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nor did the Mexico State transportation department that is overseeing the project.

INAH spokesman Arturo Mendez said that "in almost every project of this type, there are going to be discoveries" of pre-Hispanic material." Thousands of years of settlement have left potentially interesting relics scattered across the region.

The Institute normally sends in a rescue project to excavate, recover any significant items, carefully rebury the site for possible future exploration, and then allow the construction to continue.

That is basically what happened in the 1960s to Maya ruins known as "Tortuguero" in the southern state of Tabasco. It was split in half and largely covered by highway construction.

The site happened to hold a stone monolith or stella known as Monument Six, which contains one of only a couple of known references in Mayan glyphs to the date 2012, which some believe marks the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar and a possible apocalypse.

The inscription has become so famous that the Tabasco state government now uses it on advertisements to promote tourism, even though the stone fragment itself sits in a museum in the nearby city of Villahermosa and little is left of the ceremonial site where it was excavated.

The people of Amecameca say they want to prevent that from happening to them.

Maria de los Angeles Eusebio, 55, a retired anthropologist, is one of the local residents who have camped out for the last week to prevent construction machinery from going through. Equipped with tents, coffee "and lots and lots of blankets," residents are staying day and night, through wind, rain and cold, to ensure the remains of their ancestors' city aren't destroyed.

"We don't want them to just bury this and run the highway over the top of it," said Eusebio. "We want them to return the artifacts, so we can display them in a museum for the community."

Mexico billionaires battle over telecoms sector

Perhaps this helps explain our telephone and internet service problems in Troncones? 

Mexico billionaires battle over telecoms sector
February 5, 2012 by Henry Orrego
Carlos Slim, the world's richest man according to Forbes magazine, received a boost to his dominance of the Mexican cell phone market when the country's competition watchdog blocked a $1.6 billion telecoms deal to link the media empires of two big rivals.
Battles between three Mexican billionaires over control of the lucrative telecoms sector heated up again this week, intensified by international criticism of monopolistic practices.
Carlos Slim -- the world's richest man according to Forbes magazine -- received a boost to his dominance of the Mexican cell phone market when the country's competition watchdog blocked a $1.6 billion telecoms deal to link the media empires of two big rivals.
The deal would have united interests of Emilio Azcarraga, who owns Televisa, the largest media company in the Spanish-speaking world, and Ricardo Salinas, who owns telephone company Iusacell and Mexico's second broadcaster TV Azteca.
But the Federal Competition Commission's board ruled on Wednesday against Televisa's planned acquisition of half of indebted Iusacell.
Both companies said they would contest the decision, and police even intervened to let the commission representatives enter Iusacell's headquarters amid scuffles and shouting.
"It's almost like an episode in the Wild West, where the sheriff can't enter to resolve a fight and the consumers are paying the cost," said Jorge Fernando Negrete, director of Mediatelecom consultancy.
Azcarraga and Salinas have been rivals up to now, as owners of the two main analog television channels, representing some 70 percent of that market.
A proposed tie-up would have united the interests of Emilio Azcarraga (pictured), who owns Televisa, the largest media company in the Spanish-speaking world, and Ricardo Salinas, who owns telephone company Iusacell and Mexico's second broadcaster TV Azteca.
A merger of their interests through mobile phones presents a direct challenge to Slim, who is seeking authorization to enter the cable TV market, also dominated by Televisa.
Although his America Movil -- with more than 225 million clients in 18 countries -- offers "triple play" packages of phone, Internet and television across Latin America, Slim has been blocked in attempts to offer TV in Mexico.
As his rivals fought to take on his cell phone empire, the tycoon refuted a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development arguing that a lack of competition in Mexico's communications industry and high prices cost the country about $25 billion a year.
Slim called the figure a "fantasy" during a press conference Tuesday while questioning the methodology that the OECD used to reach its estimate.
America Movil has 80 percent of Mexico's landlines and 70 percent of the mobile market, as well as 74 percent of Internet access.
"The average market share of the mobile incumbent in OECD countries is roughly 40 percent," the OECD said.
The Mexican Federal Competition Commission's board has ruled against Televisa's planned acquisition of half of indebted Iusacell, part of the business empire of Ricardo Salinas (pictured)
The organization said the report was produced at the request of the Mexican government, which also paid for it.
Slim suggested that one of his foes had commissioned and paid for the report.
Analysts said the tensions underlined the urgency to reform regulations and open the market to new players in the most populous Spanish-speaking country.
"The country faces a big challenge with the arrival of new services like digital television and the need to increase coverage of broadband," said Enrique Melrose, a telecoms analyst and professor at Mexico's ITAM university.
"We all want access to a market... offering television, fixed- and mobile- phones and Internet access in one package."
Until now, Mexico's regulators have fought numerous attempts to block their efforts to enforce competition.
"The authorities have not acted well to slow down the monopolistic practices," admitted lawmaker Javier Corral, from the ruling conservative PAN party.
Corral warned that with a general election due on July 1 politicians were even less likely to upset the powerful tycoons.
Slim, Azcarraga and Salinas "know the power of the media in a pre-electoral environment and are no doubt ready to take advantage of it," Corral said.