First it snowed, and then your correspondent ran off to Mexico City!

Aztec merchandise

It is ancient and modern and crowded and mysterious, all at the same time. Outside the city is Teotihuacan, a complex of pyramids and outbuildings built of volcanic cobblestones, founded in 200 BC and reaching the height of its power about 400 AD.

Pyramid of the Sun.

The Sun Pyramid is half the size of Egypt’s, built from 2.5 million tons of stone. We know very little about its creators or people, except that they were artists and traders, and were less violent than the Aztecs were, at least until they destroyed and abandoned  their  city in 650 AD. It still looks pretty good.

Pyramid of the Moon.

  They had no metal, so they made incredible stone carvings with obsidian tools: black, sharpened volcanic rocks.

Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent.

I love Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, so much, I had to buy a little terracotta likeness of his  snake head and stick it on the side of my house. I need at least 100 more.

Quetzalcoatl head shots.

The Aztecs discovered the ruins of the city and gave it the name Teotihuacan, “The place where men become gods.” From their findings there, they gathered ideas about pyramid construction, sacred animals like jaguars and coyotes, stone carving, and especially the use of obsidian knives .

Hello, kitty.

At art school, if you didn’t know what to say about someone’s work, you could dazzle your colleagues and still say nothing by saying, “I’d like to see it taken further.”

So I picture the Aztecs having a critique about human sacrifice, which the ancient pyramid-builders seem to have done every now and again. Some clown says that, and next thing you know, the Aztecs are making necklaces out of jawbones, beads out of baby craniums, setting stones in the teeth of skulls, sacrificing 2,000 of their own warriors in a single day and tossing them down the pyramid steps. The jaguar symbolizes the thunder that precedes rain, and this one is hollowed out for handy storage of human hearts.

Yard art at Frida Kahlo's.

I think this must contribute to the Mexican sense of levity, even playfulness, about death, that I find startling but refreshing, and I want to learn from this. What if the inevitable is a celebration?

You want fries with that?

So it’s a little weird to walk around a place that’s lasted for 2,000 years, and then go to Washaway Beach, where, in three weeks time, two houses have completely disappeared and two more are in the last stages.

A-frame B-gone.

What if it were a celebration? I try and break my bad and recurring habit of worrying about things over which I have no control, and which are inevitable. But what I feel is impending fear and grief. The water is getting closer, disturbingly so.

Roberta and Dave's place B. Next.

The foundation from Willie Washaway’s house has been repurposed into a lounge for stylish hipsters.

Road closed.

My friend Joan, who died a few years ago, had a great sense of humor and sense of Washaway. I have a windup toy she got me of a little house. You pull on the chimney and the thing goes running across the table and falls off the edge.

The box for the toy has a quote from Brazilian poet Manoel de Barros: “The snail is a house that walks.”


About washybeach

Washaway Beach This Week is a blog by photojournalist Erika Langley. See more work at
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One Response to Ruins

  1. dagmar says:

    the impending doom. beautiful.

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