An Archaeological and Anthropological Adventure at Cañada de la Virgen

We have visited the pyramids at the Cañada de la Virgen site several times. It is one of our favorite places to take visitors when they come to see us for two reasons: because of its close proximity to León (where we live); and because of the impressive large pyramid that we can climb. It is definitely a favorite for our children to visit because they like to pretend that they are mountain goats as they navigate the steep, narrow steps of the pyramid.

In our past visits, we have always used the Spanish-speaking tour guides provided by the government. The cost of these guides is included in the price of the tour. The guides we have had have done a great job of explaining things and, after visiting a few times, our understanding of what they are saying in Spanish has drastically improved. However, we decided that when we visited the pyramids with my non-Spanish-speaking sister and her family, they would enjoy the experience more with an English-speaking guide.

 

On one of our previous visits, we had overheard a dynamic, knowledgeable man giving a tour to a couple of people in English. What we could hear was impressive and we were interested in procuring him as our guide. This man,  Alberto Aveleyra with the Artisans of Time Cultural Project, is an anthropologist who is actively conducting research at the Cañada de la Virgen site, among others. He uses the funds from the tours he gives to help offset the costs of his research. This sounded exciting to me because not only would we be able to understand the entire tour at Cañada de la Virgen and be free to ask questions in English, we could also support local research in the area that contributes to the understanding of this region’s cultural heritage.

We had several children in our group of fifteen ranging in age from kindergarten to middle school, thus the range in attention span of the kids was vastly different. Alberto did a wonderful job of engaging the adults in our group as well as the kids. He was very knowledgeable of the site and was able to answer so many of our questions for which the other tour guides we have had could not. It was interesting to listen to the scientific speculation about what happened to those ancient peoples, why they used the materials they did, or what the purpose was of so many of the things we saw. We really appreciated his complete and thoughtful insights and explanations throughout the entire tour. His vast wealth of knowledge made this the most exciting tour that we have had at this site and it greatly enriched our understanding of the culture and the area we were visiting. Additionally, it was incredibly fun to watch how captivated our children were by the things he was describing. He was able to make history come alive with his stories, and the visuals that he brought with him made it easy for all of us to understand. The kids (and adults) were full of questions and his patience with answering these questions seemed limitless.

There were several really cool things that we learned during our tour. First of all, the people that visited Cañada de la Virgen walked through the canyons to get there. There are a lot of canyons that wind through the countryside, hidden from sight, and it’s mind-boggling to think about how they made that trip. The second interesting fact that we learned was that the remains found in the largest pyramid at Cañada de la Virgen pre-dates the pyramid by hundreds of years. Alberto had a photograph with an image rendered that could give an approximation of the appearance of the man whose remains were found there. The third most memorable fact that we learned was that as we looked out over the landscape, in the areas where there were large clusters of trees, there were probably the remains of some kind of structure still existing there. There are many potential archaeological sites that exist just in that small region alone. Mexico owns the rights to explore and research those sites, no matter who the owner of the property may be. A final piece of interesting information that we learned was that we visited the site on a very important day of the year that marked the change in seasons – the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season. The structures at the pyramid are aligned in a way that the sun shines right through an opening on that day at sunrise. We, of course, missed seeing that, but Alberto had photographs that showed the phenomenon happening. 

There were many more things that we learned that day that have stuck with me since we went on that tour. It has made us much more eager to get out and travel to more archaeological sites and continue learning more about the culture and how the native Mexicans lived prior to the Spanish conquest.

Placard found at Cañada de la Virgen
Placard found at Cañada de la Virgen in English and Spanish. Photo by Angela Grier

Everyone in our group really enjoyed the tour and the children were so interested that they continued to discuss some of the things they had learned even after we left the site. I highly, highly recommend using Alberto Aveleyra if you are interested in learning about the history and culture of this beautiful region. We will definitely ask him to lead a tour with us again the next time we take guests to Cañada de la Virgen. I know this post reads like an advertisement, but we had the most amazing experience and I had to share it with everyone. If you have the opportunity, this is one tour that should not be missed. Check out the short video clip below for a sample of the kind of engaging, story-telling that our children especially enjoyed. 

Cost of the tour: 950 pesos per person

What this includes: An approximate 5-hour tour, the cost of a ticket to enter the site, and a ride to Cañada de la Virgen from San Miguel de Allende. 

What you will get: An in-depth look at the peoples that once populated the region and a better understanding of their culture and beliefs. An expert guide with intimate knowledge of those peoples and how they might have used Cañada de la Virgen.  An incredible teacher with a passion for sharing that knowledge and preserving the heritage and culture of the region. 

Contact Information:

Phone: +52 1 415 100 0947

Email: artisansoftime@gmail.com

Website: www.artisansoftime.mx

 

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