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Long before the settlement of the great Mesoamerican capitals of Teotihuacán or Tenochtitlan, Mexico’s central valley was full of chiefdoms and city-states vying for power.
Because today, the Valley of México is dominated by Mexico City, many of these ancient cities have been reduced to rubble.
The name Acaquilpan is believed to derive from the Náhuatl word Atlicpac, which means “adjacent to the water,” likely referring to the lake of Texcoco.
The archaeological site known as Acaquilpan, or Los Reyes, lies within the urban sprawl of Mexico City’s southeast, within a fenced-off park.
Though the site’s remains are relatively few, its importance is considerable. During the reign of the Mexica, it was an important ceremonial site, as attested to by the discovery of Jaguar Cuauhxicalli.
A Cuauhxicalli is a type of large stone vessel used to place the hearts of the sacrificed during ceremonies.
The two beautifully preserved Cuauhxicalli of Acaquilpan were spirited off to museums in Mexico City for restoration and preservation.
However, visitors to Acaquilpan can still enjoy these figures thanks to two fiberglass replicas installed at the site.
Acaquilpan appears to have first been inhabited sometime in the 3rd century BCE, in a pattern similar to that of other cities, including Acozac and Chilmalhuacán.
But the archaeological remains visible today at Acaquilpan date mainly to the Mixtec period of occupation beginning in roughly the 8th century.
The structures at the site are constructed out of volcanic stone in the style of Tollan-Xicocotitlan, the dominant city-state of the region of the time — though on a smaller scale.
The archaeological site of Acaquilpan is dominated by a large artificial platform on which its surviving structures sit.
At Acaquilpan, it is also possible to observe the ruins of an elite residential complex, which is more than a full-time dwelling for the city’s nobles as a symbol of their power.
The remains of a circular base, which was likely a Temple to Ehécatl, the deity of the winds, is also visible.
If you go
Getting to Acaquilpan from anywhere in Mexico City is fairly easy, especially by taxi or ride-sharing service.
Another good option is to hire a driver for the day to visit other interesting sites in the area, including Acozac and Chimalhuacán.
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.