Since the 5th century BCE, the ancient city of Acozac was an important settlement for several Nahuatl-speaking peoples, including the Tepanec, Acolhua, and Chichimeca.
The city was also known as Ixtapaluca — which is often translated as “the place of stones” or “where the salt gets wet” — and serves today as the name of the municipality in which the site is located in Mexico State.
A contemporary of Teotihuacan, and located at the opposite end of the lake of Texcoco, it is likely that Acozac served as a satellite city-state and line of defense to ward off possible invasions.
But Acozac really seems to have come into its own as a power in itself during the time of the foundation of the Aztec empire in the 12th century CE.
Given its location surrounded by some of the most densely populated areas in all of Mexico, it is hard to say with any certainty exactly how big Acozac really was during its heyday. But given its extremely long period of occupation and surviving architecture, it is not unreasonable to assume it would have been quite the regional power.
In recent years, Acozac has also been closely associated with Techotlalatzin, mentioned in the Xólotl codex, along with other powerful city-states such as Tenayuca.
Acozac was first investigated by the INAH in the 1970s during an urban expansion project and the construction of a golf club. As a result, six structures of varying sizes and all part of the same plaza were restored.
That being said, large mounds can be seen in virtually all directions, hinting at the true size of this impressive sight.
Another of the characteristics of the site, likely resulting from its extremely long period of occupation, is a large number of ceramic pieces littering the area.
Given that no caretakers appear to be on duty at Acozac, the large construction vehicles visible in the area are extremely troubling. Mexico State does not have a particularly good reputation when it comes to caring for its archaeological heritage.
At the northern end of the site, it’s possible to observe a pyramidal structure displaying both Aztec and Teotihuacan features, which also happens to be the largest surviving edification at Acozac.
This particular structure has only been partially restored, and several smaller unrestored mounds can be seen adjacent to it on all but its southern side.
From the pyramid, whose name remains unknown, it is possible to see the remains of a plaza with four structures flanking its southern end.
Given the construction patterns of Mesoamerican peoples, it is extremely unlikely that this row of structures would have existed in isolation, which suggests at least an equally impressive series of buildings would have stood on its opposite side to complete the plaza.
At the far end of the surviving plaza, it is possible to make out a rounded platform which, from its features, was almost certainly dedicated to the wind deity Ehécatl.
The deity Ehécatl likely finds its origin in Mexica mythology and is often associated with Quetzalcóatl, known in the Maya world as Kukulkán.
Just to the north of the temple of Ehécatl is what appears to be a large multi-roomed elite residence complete with several niches and staircases.
Aside from its exquisite state of preservation on the whole, one of the most notable features of this structure is its virtually intact stucco floor, which may have been protected from the elements for centuries by low-lying vegetation — and plenty of help from INAH archaeologists.
Other surviving/restored structures at Acozac are made up primarily of ceremonial platforms and elevated foundations.
Given its location in a particularly arid region of Mexico State, it is no surprise that Acozac is full of man-made water reservoirs lined with bricks and stucco.
If you go
Because Acozac is hardly ever visited by tourists and acts mostly as a local park, there are no organized tours to the site.
To visit, the best course of action is to hire a driver in Mexico City and perhaps also hit some other relatively nearby sites such as Los Reyes de Acaquilpan and Chilmalhuacán.
Public transport to this part of Mexico State is available from Mexico City, but these routes are known for being particularly dangerous as they are near several slums with tremendously high crime rates. Best to play it safe and hire a trustworthy driver.