November 8, 2014

0658, 1328 MEXICO (Veracruz) - El Tajin, Pre-Hispanic City (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 25.05.2013 and completed on 08.11.2014
In 1785, an official stumbled upon by chance the Pyramid of the Niches, in the highlands of the municipality of Papantla, in the low mountains that lead from the Sierra Madre Oriental to the Gulf coast near the Tecolutla River. It is unclear who built the city, but the site was known to the local Totonac, whose ancestors may also have built it, as El Tajín, which was said to mean "of thunder or lightning bolt". Related to this is their belief that twelve old thunderstorm deities, known as Tajín, still inhabit the ruins. Anyway, between 600 and 1200 C.E. it was a prosperous city, one of the largest and most important of the Classic era of Mesoamerica, that controlled much of what is now modern Veracruz state, advantaged  by its strategic position along the old trade routes.

Considered to be crucial to the understanding of artistic and socio-economic development in the period between the Teotihuacan and Mexico-Tenochtitlan empires, and its architecture, characterized by elaborate carved reliefs on the columns and frieze, being unique in Mesoamerica, was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992, under the name El Tajin, Pre-Hispanic City. The settlement is divided into three areas, each constructed around a number of open spaces (plazas). The focus of the site is Pyramid of the Niches, which rises at 20m in 6 steps to a temple at the top, and has a wide staircase rising up its eastern side. Each storey has rows of square niches with overhanging cornices, 365 in total, one for each day of the solar year. The staircase is bordered by a step-and-fret motif; probably representing lightning.

This structure may have been a giant calendar. Its exterior was originally painted red, while the niches were painted black. Various sculptures, including a large royal figure, were found at the foot of the stairs. There are large square blocks along the base which held poles that probably had ritual banners attached to them. The pyramid is flanked by two smaller structures named Building 2 and Building 4. Both are small temple-like platforms. Building 4 contains a smaller, older structure inside it that may be among the earliest structures at the site.

About the stamps
On the first postcard 
The stamp is part of  the series México creación popular (Folk Art Mexico), about which I wrote here.

On the second postcard
The first stamp depicts the former monastery of Santo Domingo de Guzmán in Oaxaca. The second stamp is a joint issue Mexico-Portugal, designed by Sergio Barranca Rábago & Helder Soares, and issued on June 6, 2014. 

El Tajin - Wikipedia
El Tajin, Pre-Hispanic City - UNESCO official website

Sender 1: Maggie Alonso (direct swap)
Sent from Ecatepec (Mexico / Mexico), on 17.04.2013
Sender 2: Alonso Jimenez (direct swap)
Sent from San Miguel el Alto (Jalisco / Mexico), on 17.09.2014


  1. I have always been fascinated by archaeology and ancient cultures. Some day I shall visit here. Thank you for sharing this postcard of these magnificent ruins.

    Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Postcard Friendship Friday!

  2. Hello dear,

    I'am a little bit late for the Friday Postcard, it's been a while since my last participation.

    This article brings me back to school when we were studying Mexico, Peru, Egypt etc... It was fascinating and so strange at the same time.

    The world really comes your way, it's wonderful. Thanks for sharing and please to meet you.

    Grace from France

  3. A giant calendar! That's spectacular!