INAH offers a Teotihuacan site alternative visit, in order to appreciate the unique pictorial manifestations of this ancient civilization.

The appointment is on April 26th with archaeologist Nestor Paredes. Only 40 places are available.

Not all the routes at Teotihuacan lead to Sun pyramid. Not many know that inside this sacred city, around and beyond Moon pyramid, there are four spaces where the dwelling areas of this ancient city were located.

General public can visit these places. Tetitla, Tepantitla, Atetelco and La Ventanilla are their names. These four neighborhoods were established at the suburbs of what used to be the Teotihuacan ceremonial center, consisting on two huge pyramids and the road known as Roadway of Deaths. The city once occupied 8.5 square miles.

Walking through these domestic spaces, which walls and floors remain decorated with pre-Columbian paintings, is like traveling through past and into everyday life of Teotihuacan families.

This fresco technique paintings remain as testimony of their daily activities, thinking and beliefs. Based on these elements we can imagine how was it to live in which is considered the first Mesoamerican city, raised in 1st century AD, and which collapse began in 700 AD.

Recently, National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) started suggesting guided tours through former dwelling areas, in order to offer people an alternative visit that will deepen their knowledge of Teotihuacan, other than the ascension to Sun and Moon pyramids.

INAH archaeologists involved in Teotihuacan explorations, who provide data about the former neighborhoods, guide the tour.

Tetitla, the noble district

The visit begins at the aristocracy dwellings. This stonewall-bordered vicinity is located to the west of the archaeological zone, near Puerta 1. There was just one access to this place.

“Every architectonic aggregate was walled, which makes us think they had a defensive purpose” explains archaeologist Veronica Ortega Cabrera, sub-director of the archaeological site; the urban system used in this dwelling zones consisted in streets, platforms, squares, yards and altars, affirms.

After trespassing the wall, porticos that communicated rooms and circulating halls are observed. Patios hundidos, or deep-set yards, consisting on rectangular holes on the ground, filled with water, had a lightning purpose, to reflect light into the rooms.

Outstanding mural paintings are related to deities, like Las Diosas Verdes, or Green Goddesses, feminine characters associated to Chalchitlicue. They carry greenstone masks, and from their hands, green figures and seeds, symbolizing fertility, flow.

It is interesting to quote that the background of every mural painting is red. This color was sacred for Teotihuacan people, and was associated with courage. As a matter of fact, Moon and Sun pyramids were painted in this color, indicates Veronica Ortega. “This was a red city; the pigment was obtained from rust, and was used diluted or intensely”.

Another remarkable mural painting in Tetitla is Jaguares en Procesion, Jaguars Procession. Eight orange-colored felines, wearing headsets, are aligned towards the entrance of the room.

Felines, as well as serpents, were associated with power. This painting shows other jaguars, sitting. Three-lobuled figures emerging from their mouths, have been identified by iconographers as cut hearts or pieces of meat being devoured or regurgitated.

Atetelco, the warrior school

It is located at the west of ceremonial site, near Tetitla. Unlike this neighborhood, where deities and daily life scenes were painted, the Atetelco mural paintings main theme is war.

As a fact, the large amount of war related paintings supports the theory that it was a military school or headquarters, inhabited between 450 and 650 AD. The iconography consists mainly by incisive weapons like maguey spines, obsidiana knifes and arrowheads.

La Procesion de los Sacerdotes or Priests Procession is one of the best examples of Teotihuacan mural painting. Located at Patio Blanco, or White Yard, we can observe several characters holding a cane, with a seashell by their side, from where the word rod or representation emerges.

These personages represented inside a red rhomboidal figure, have been identified as priests, and a ceremony is taking place. At the bottom of this representation, canine figures identified as wolves, jaguars regurgitating dripping balls, and feathered serpents are depicted.

Bird Character, or Personaje Ave mural is outstanding. A man in an eagle outfit, carrring a shield is represented. He wears a beak-figured helmet, long wings and a tail.

Another masterpiece is Ave con Polluelos, or Bird with Chicks, were an eagle with its wings extended, is represented among 13 chicks. “This animal is also related with war” comments archaeologist Ortega.

Other iconographic elements used repeatedly are Chimallis or shields, curved knifes used in sacrifice rites, hearts trespassed by arrows and a Tlaloc war advocacy.

La Ventilla, where agriculturists and handcrafters lived

This architectonic aggregate is located on the southwestern region of the city, near Puerta 1. In this place, INAH archaeologists have achieved recuperation of large amounts of mural paintings. More than 300 burials found indicate that agriculturists and handcrafters specialized in stone, feather and shell techniques, could have lived together here.

Mural paintings located at Patio de los Jaguares, Jaguars Yard, can be admired. This place, consisting of a little space of what used to be a dwelling unit, where a procession of orange jaguars escorted by a priest, can be observed.  

At this neighborhood, one of the most exceptional pictorial examples, not found anywhere else in Mesoamerica, can be admired. At the Glyphs Square, located between several temples, we find the floor decorated with a reticule of symbolic and mythological fauna representations.

“There are several interpretations of this particular place. One refers that it functioned as a school for the priest class children. Another one implies that it could have been where the Council attended, where fauna icons would have represented totems for each delegate, who gathered to discuss life in the neighborhood” states Nestor Paredes Cetina, an archaeologist who participated in Teotihuacan explorations held between 1992 and 1998.

This section of the city was inhabited in an early stage, the Miccaotli period, near 200 AD. It was abandoned in the Metepec phase (550-650 AD), and again dwelled by Coyotlatelca and Mexica groups.

Tepantitla, the Tlaloc paradise

This dwelling area is located to the northwest of the archaeological site, near Puerta 4 and Sun pyramid.

The original contribution of this district is the Tlalocan mural painting, 1.31 yards long and .65 yards height. This pictorial work has been interpreted as Tlaloc paradise.

Characters are doing ludicrous activities, such as playing or catching butterflies. Plenty of flora and fauna specimens, as well as 8 different ballgame courts are represented.

Next to the red background, the scene represents a sacred mountain with water springs, which keeps inside corn seeds, safeguarded by Tlaloques, or Tlaloc helpers.

At the upper section of the mural, we find a central character, Tlaloc, the Rain God, wearing a huge bird-figured headset and long green feathers.  He presents gifts falling to earth from his hands.

A Red Tlaloc could not be missed in this crimson colored city. The Tlaloc Rojo painting represents this deity with a headset from which streams of a liquid consisting of eyes, flowers and leaves flow.

Tepantitla was inhabited between Tlamimilolpa (225-350 AD) and Metepec (550-650 AD) phases, probably by priest class.

“Beatriz de la Fuente” Teotihuacan Mural Painting Museum

The visit to the four neighborhoods ends at the “Beatriz de la Fuente Museum”. In its halls, a selected collection of 37 mural fragments is safeguarded. They have been recuperated over a hundred-year excavation period in the archaeological zone.  

Here we can deepen our knowledge regarding the way Teotihuacan people created murals. More than 42 archaeological pieces are also at exhibition. It was in recent days when the museum name was changed to “Beatriz de la Fuente”, a researcher who devoted her career to Teotihuacan mural paintings.

The visit to this place would not be complete without trying out the local dishes, like mushroom soup, huitlacoche mole sauce or pickled rabbit.

Why wait? Grab a hat, comfortable clothes and shoes without heels, to protect original floors, get a bottle of water and a walking mood.

The next mural painting tour is scheduled on April 26, conducted in Spanish by Nestor Paredes. Only 40 persons can participate; the $373 MXP fee includes transportation.

Further information at INAH Cultural Tourism, 53 Frontera St., Tizapan, Alvaro Obregon, 01090, Mexico DF. Phones: 5553 2365, 5553 3822. E mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..