El Tajin: A Sacred City of the Totonaca Culture

Verónica Santamaría


From the moment you enter "El Tajin" (which is a prehispanic city that features over 3,017 acres and was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by the UNESCO), you will live a completely cultural experience when you enter this majestic archaeological site, surrounded by a beautiful backdrop where fragrant, exotic plants and lush tropical vegetation perfectly combine to take you a step back to the splendor of this important archaeological site.

TajinA large courtyard, where the performance of "La Danza de los Voladores de Papantla" takes place, will welcome you to this majestic archaeological site. Afterwards, you will see a museum where extraordinary sculpted pieces and important information about El Tajin are housed. The entrance to the ruins is located at the end of the museum, considered one of the most beautiful buildings of Mesoamerican architecture.

TajinEl Tajin ("City or Place of Thunder" in Totonaca) is located in the Totonacapan region, in the north of the state of Veracruz. This important political and religious place of the Gulf region was founded in 4 A.D. and reached its peak between 800 and 1200 A.D. The central area of the archeological site is divided into five different parts: "El Grupo Playa del Arroyo", "La Zona Central", "La Gran Xicalcoliuhqui", "El Tajin Chico" and "El Conjunto de las Columnas". These zones include various courtyards, as well as striking architecture, featured in buildings such as "La Piramide de Los Nichos" (The Pyramid of the Niches), which is the main symbol of El Tajin and features 365 niches, a reference to the solar calendar. The area also features the central and southern ball courts and the Temple of the Columns.

TajinThe amazing city of El Tajin maintained its economy through agriculture, commerce and the barter of products and service with other towns that are found in the surrounding areas. It was the political capital of the Totonacan region and its governor was "13 Conejo" (13 Rabbit), the personification of Quetzalcoatl, the god that was venerated by the Totonacas. This particular god can be found as a common theme in the paintings, architecture and sculptures of the area. There were different social positions like the social elite, the agricultural sector and the artisans, who were dedicated to the commerce and exchange of their products in the markets.

TajinThe paintings and sculptures of the different buildings tell the history and the culture of these people. The importance of the site can be appreciated, especially in the archeological sense, since researchers are still exploring and doing their best to preserve the ruins in excellent conditions.

TajinA theme park called Takilhsukit was built due to the excellent promotion of El Tajin. The park is located 62 miles from the archeological site and holds every year "La Cumbre Tajin", an event where important cultural, artistic, social, sporting and musical events are organized.

TajinAfter amazing yourself with the wonderful buildings discovered in El Tajin and understanding the grandeur of the Totonaca culture, go to the main entrance where a lot of handcrafts stands are located. Buy beautiful souvenirs like cane flutes, animal figures made with vanilla pods and typical clothes embroidered with bright colors and many other fascinating local handicrafts, crafted by the artisans of the Totonacapan region.

TajinIf you are planning a trip to the state of Veracruz, don't miss the opportunity to explore the Totonaca world of El Tajin and its surroundings and discover an important part of the Mexico's past. Enjoy this archeological zone, located only 15 minutes from Papantla, 25 minutes from Poza Rica and 3 hours and a half from the Port of Veracruz.