The Secrets of Tenochtitlan Revealed

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

One Summer in Mexico ~ Part 75

El Zocalo is the heart of the Estados Unidos Mexicanos . . . a nation today of over 126 million people . . . only six million less that the United States of America during World War II. When I visited Mexico the first time, its population was 51,493,565! At that time, Mexican archaeologists had just discovered that the National Cathedral and Zocalo were built over the original acropolis of Tenochtitlan – the capital of the Aztec Empire. Because of the high water table, underground archaeological work here is both tedious and dangerous. Nevertheless, year by year, Mexico City’s incredibly rich Pre-Hispanic heritage is becoming known.

Although what was then visible of the architecture of the Mexica (Aztecs) composed the first sites that I visited on the Barrett Fellowship, it was only on later trips to Mexico that much of the acropolis of Tenochtitlan had been revealed by archaeologists. Shortly before I arrived in Mexico to start the fellowship, archaeologists had just discovered that the Spanish had not completely destroyed the buildings in the acropolis of Tenochtitlan. Instead they directed their Aztec slaves to knock down the upper parts of temples then used the filled in lower parts as foundations for Spanish-style architecture. Most of the stone masonry for the Spanish buildings came from the partially-demolished Mexica buildings.

Each time that there is excavation for a tunnel or large building in Mexico City, more information is gained from the past. The chronology of mankind’s presence in the Valley of Mexico is much more precise than fifty years ago, but it continues to be revised. The Mexica were just one of the many peoples, who have come to live in this natural bowl, surrounded by tall volcanoes.

Love letters are a forgotten art today. Back then, there was no such thing as email, instant messaging, text messaging, cellular phones or even the capability to directly dial a home telephone number in Mexico City from Atlanta. One had to bribe the Mexican Postal Service an additional 50 centavos (Entraga Immediata) to actually put an air mail letter on an Eastern Airlines jet, headed for Atlanta, before the 21st century.
For our very first date, Alicia took me to see the movie, “John and Mary.” It was about a young man and young woman, who have sex on their very first date. The tragedy was that Alicia had the heart of a 20 year old French coquette, but the lifestyle of a 15 year old Mexican teenybopper. She only gained her freedom after getting a scholarship to obtain her masters degree at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Our second date was a lunch here at Sanborns near the Zocalo. We dined with two of Alicia’s friends from the university, who had shocked their parents by moving into together, without getting married. Guess it was a subtle hint from Alicia.
We then walked over to the archaeological site, where the world was getting its very first view of a street and building wall of Pre-Hispanic Tenochtitlan. The excavation of the capital of the Aztecs has now expanded to several hundred acres.

The 20-year non-disclosure agreement just expired, so now I can tell you this. In June 2001, on the 10th anniversary of us faking an affair,  Covert Federal Agent Susan Karlson invited me to go on a honeymoon with her to Mexico City. I never did know what federal agency that she was then working for.  She was tailing some men from the Middle East, who were taking commercial pilot lessons in Georgia and Florida. There were several pilot schools in the Middle East, so the assumption was that one or more Middle Eastern countries planned to convert passenger jets into bombers and then conduct a surprise attack on Israel.  This was also the thirtieth anniversary of me flying to Mexico for the first time. (See “The French Courtesan Who Came In from the Cold – Parts 11 and 12” to understand why Susan and I had faked an affair . . . but ended up faking, faking an affair.)

We posed as giddy newly-weds, Richard and Susan Gardner . . . complete with fake passports, driver’s licenses, credit cards and wedding pictures. My home telephone answering machine was relayed to someone in Mexico City, so that I could answer important phone calls as if I was still in Jasper, GA, where I now lived. 

Susan’s agency was using my absence as a means of making a protected federal witness from Asheville, NC disappear.  She had worked under me for six months at Asheville City Hall in 1980 . . . had tried to persuade me to have an affair with her, several time while I was in Asheville.  So, no one in state law enforcement, after contacting their counterparts in Asheville, would think it odd that her car would be parked at my house. She intentionally allowed my neighbors to see her . . . “making herself at home” in my house. Of course, in a little under three months the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks would occur in New York City and Washington, DC.

Our hotel was near the Zocalo, so while Susan was doing whatever she was doing, I had free time to tour the vast area of Tenochtitlan now excavated.   However, I was not allowed to contact my friends in Mexico.  This gave me time to thoroughly study what was being revealed about Tenochtitlan.”

This is a 1521 Spanish map of Tenochtitlan, before it was devastated by the Spanish. The city began on a small island on Lake Texcoco. As the Mexica population swelled, man-made islands were created by driving posts into the muck and then building a mat of vegetation over designated islands. Dirt was hauled by canoe to dump on the vegetative mats until dry land began to form. The main form of transportation at Tenochtitlan was canoes.
Modern mural of Tenochtitlan as it appeared in 1520.
Modern mural of Tenochtitlan as it appeared in 1520.

A secret visit to Mexico City

The 20-year non-disclosure agreement just expired, so now I can tell you the rest of the story. In June 2001, on the 10th anniversary of us faking an affair,  Covert Federal Agent Susan Karlson invited me to go on a honeymoon with her to Mexico City. I never did know what federal agency that she was then working for.  She was tailing some men from the Middle East, who were taking commercial pilot lessons in Georgia and Florida. There were several pilot schools in the Middle East, so the assumption was that one or more Middle Eastern countries planned to convert passenger jets into bombers and then conduct a surprise attack on Israel.  This was also the thirtieth anniversary of me flying to Mexico for the first time.

We posed as giddy newly-weds, Richard and Susan Gardner . . . complete with fake passports, driver’s licenses, credit cards and wedding pictures. My home telephone answering machine was relayed to someone in Mexico City, so that I could answer important phone calls . . . as if I was still in Jasper, GA, where I now lived. 

Susan’s agency (whoever they were?) was using my absence as a means of making a protected federal witness from Asheville, NC disappear.  She had worked under me for six months at Asheville City Hall in 1980 . . . had tried to persuade me to have an affair with her, several time while I was in Asheville.  So, no one in state law enforcement would think it odd that her car would be parked at my house after calling their counterparts in North Carolina for a background check.

Our hotel was near the Zocalo, so while Susan was doing whatever she was doing, I had free time to tour the vast area of Tenochtitlan now excavated.   However, I was not allowed to contact my friends in Mexico.  This gave me time to thoroughly study what was being revealed about the Aztecs.

Archaeological excavations around the Great Temple

This was a fountain, built by the Spanish, shortly after they captured Tenochtitlan.
We now know where and what all the buildings were in the heart of Tenochtitlan.

El Club Cristobal Colon

During Christmas Season of 1970 and early 1971, my 10 year old sister and I stayed in Alicia’s house in Colonial Nueva Santa Maria, Mexico City. Thanks to the cooperation of my sister, Alicia and I finally were able to have quality time . . . even if it meant her tip-toeing into my bedroom at 3 AM and waking me up by swishing her silken black hair across my face.

On the last Saturday night that Alicia and I were together, she suggested that we get all dressed up and go out to the Club Cristobal Colon in the Zona Rosa at the the hotel of the same name. A group of young men, called Los Angeles Negros were providing the dance music. The band went on to become one of the most beloved popular music groups in Latin America during the 1970s. Fortunately, I purchased a signed 45 rpm vinyl record of “Y Volvere” from them on the way out. It became Number One in all of Americas.

Alicia Rozanes Moreno at Cuicuilco

During the first year of the Great Recession, I stumbled upon a legal notice from Cancun, Quintana Roo that a woman with the same unusual full maiden name and age as Alicia was getting foreclosed on by a bank. So Alicia was single again and back in Mexico. Then in the months before I joined the ranks of the homeless, there were a series of prayers published in a Roman Catholic website by Alicia for her mother, who was dying of cancer in Mexico City.

Just before I was evicted on Christmas Eve, there was one last votive from Alicia in the Roman Catholic website. Her mother had died and Alicia begged forgiveness for spending most of her life on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. When two years later, I again was under a roof and had internet connections, Alicia’s full name had disappeared from the internet. One legal document from Cancun suggested that she had moved to Miami . . . but who knows?

In 2014, Los Angeles Negros gave a concert to a packed audience in Mexico City. The song they sing . . . “Y Volvere” means “And I will return.” This song is dedicated to Alicia Rozanes Moreno . . . wherever you are. This song ends our series based on the little black book in which I wrote my daily experiences . . . One Summer in Mexico.

8 Comments

  1. I had a feeling that you were a romantic one at heart. I didn’t mention that of course, in addition to Spanish, she spoke English, French and Italian fluently. Very smart lassie trapped in a very oppressive home environment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I should explain. Alicia was born in the San Diego, CA. She had a big job waiting for her with Eastern Air Lines International Customer Service, paying the equivalent today of $90,000 a year at age 20 plus they would pay for tuition to finish her degree and get a masters in International Commerce.. However, she had to apply for the position in person in Atlanta . . . with either a Green Card or US Citizenship in her hand. During my Christmastime visit, we went together to the embassy. The counselor told her that all she had to do was be standing on US soil the moment she turned 21 and declare herself a US Citizen. However, Alicia was ashamed of the fact that her father divorced her mother, soon as Alicia was born. She didn’t think of telling us that her father was a US citizen. That meant the Alicia had been US citizen all her life. I didn’t realize it until it was too late. Her uncle was paying a servant to steal and read her mail from me and the mail that she sent to me. As soon as they knew that she could fly to Atlanta at any time, her mother hid her birth certificate and passport. Then her uncle paid some criminals to kidnap her and take her to her aunt’s house in northern Mexico. I didn’t know where Alicia was for four years. Then while on my honeymoon with the anti-wife, my anti-wife basically told my Mexican friends that she didn’t love me. We were outside on the front lawn. Soon thereafter, Alicia drove by in her red Barracuda sports car and waved at the Soto Family, not knowing that I was there. As soon as my new bride had left to go shopping, I called Alicia. She was ready to go back to Atlanta with me that day . . . but was too late . . . I thought. I should have gotten an annulment as soon as we got home, but I chickened out. Terrible mistake on my part.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if she is even alive. As you might guess, I have gotten very good at doing international research on the internet. Back in 2011, the CIA even recognized my skills. However, her name just disappeared without a trace other than a possible second address in Miami that was sent to her name in a legal notice by the City of Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Well, also there is a distinct division in the intellectual activities of my generation. I never stopped learning and as such my brain is alive and well. However, I have noticed a lot of folks, who essentially become mental zombies.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the reasons I have been studying Linear B scripts, also now having a crack at Linear A. to help keep my brain alive.. I can’t understand some who are content to just sit watching television all day which is what my mother did, so this was the lesson I learned because she ended up with Altziemers . What a waste of a life. eh. Like you Richard I am always willing to learn something each day..

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Richard, Did the Mexica play the Olmecs (Zokee) rubber ball game or was it another game? Thanks. It seems they held the “Twin hero’s” belief at the main temple. They must made contact with people that built circular temples like the one in Macon Ga.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, they did play the Mesoamerican rubber ball game. Originally, the Totonacs only played stick ball – like the stickball played by SE Indians, but eventually, the Totonacs played both games.

    Like

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