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Quiahuiztlán is an archaeological zone of the ancient Totonac city in the State of Veracruz, Mexico. It is located in the municipality of Actopan on Cerro de los Metates near the coastal town of Villa Rica.

The name of the site is of Nahuatl origin, and means “The place of rain.”

The site is located on the Cerro de los Metates (also referred to as Cerro Bernal), so called because many small buried metates have been found there. The ecosystem of the area is a tropical savannah, among the vegetation there are cacti, bushes, and some plants.

The Cerro de los Metates is located in the so-called Totonacapan Belt, which is limited to the north by the Nautla River and to the south by the Actopan River.

This area had three functions. It was a city with about 16 thousand inhabitants, a cemetery in which remains of 78 tombs were found arranged in three main cemeteries, and a fortress, since in all the foothills of the hill you can see defensive walls of various sizes, a fact that caused admiration among the first Hispanics, which is why they mention it in their relationships.

The site is under the care of INAH, there is a road that leads to the place, but access is restricted to visiting hours.

Visits: Monday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

There is staff on site who can provide you with more information about the place and the surrounding area. Near the place, there is the Coastal Town of Villa Rica and its small cliffs at the foot of the sea.

History & Timeline

Since pre-ceramic times, human groups existed in Rancho Nuevo, Roca Escondida, and other places on the central coastal strip of the gulf. Its development is known because ceramics similar to that of Tehuacán were found, considered one of the oldest in Mexico.

In the Middle Preclassic, these men experienced the influence of the Olmec culture, which produced the characteristic elements of the Totonac group. The Totonac territory covered the Puebla mountains and the coastal plains. Its “borders” varied over time from north to south, from the Cazones River to the Papaloapan.

Totonac cultural elements were enriched in the classical era (1st centuries BC-9th AD) due to the influence of Teotihuacán; Thus, there was a time of maximum splendor called by specialists the Late Classic (7th – 9th centuries), during which El Tajín, Las Higueras, Vega del Cuajilote, among others, known as open cities, flourished; that is, without any defensive character.

In the Epiclassic period (800 BC-900), due to the militaristic presence from the north represented by hunting and gathering groups, these sites were abandoned. Then its inhabitants protected themselves in geographically suitable places; for example, in the deep ravines that originate on the eastern slope of the Sierra Madre, or in high places that are difficult to access, as in the case of Quiahuiztlán.

The inhabitants of Quiahuiztlán partially adapted areas of Cerro Bernal through terraces; These had a double function: they served as checkpoints for the spaces gained from the hills, preventing the escape of the earth accumulated in them, and at the same time they were defensive walls that made access difficult for invaders. However, the success was not total; On two occasions they were invaded and subjugated by peoples from the Mesoamerican highlands.

The first invasion occurred in the twilight of 800; So the Toltec presence in the area is undeniable. His remains were found in an underlying structure in the Eastern Cemetery and in the substructures of the larger buildings of the Cemetery Complex.

The construction technique was careful; On the facades, small stones well carved in the shape of a rectangular prism were used as perfectly attached blocks, which were then covered with stucco of notable hardness.

The second invasion happened in the early 1400s and was carried out by the Aztecs. The main roof of the buildings and the cemeteries with mausoleums correspond to this moment, distinctive characteristics of this area.

Specialists point out that when the Spanish arrived, about 15,000 residents lived in the area.

The travels of Juan de Grijalva and later that of Hernán Cortés made it possible for the Spanish to discover the site.

During Cortés’s journey, a church and a fortified enclosure were built on the plain near the roadstead and the surrounding hills, which was called Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, which is considered the first Hispanic site in Mexico. In Quiahuiztlán an alliance was made between the Europeans and 30 Totonac peoples, a fact that significantly facilitated the Conquest of Mexico.

According to data obtained from archaeological research, the city was abandoned during the conquest and then repopulated by nomadic tribes.

The Hill of the Metates

Quiahuiztlán is located on the Cerro de los Metates, so called because there are many metates buried there. During the rains, it is known that the landslide uncovers some of these objects, although this has been decreasing as more people visit the hill.

This hill is a strategic point on the Veracruz coast due to its great visual and strategic dominance, which is why it had great importance for the Totonacas.

Rock climbing. This hill with steep walls and stained with bushes and grasses is used for rock climbing. The visual panorama as you gain height is spectacular. The level of the climb is between 5.6 and 5.8 in general.

The main route begins to the left of the path that goes up to the top of the hill, shortly after passing the highest section of the archaeological zone of Quiahuiztlán.

This route was reequipped in the early years of the 21st century by the CEMAC Veracruz climbing group. The route has two armed pitches and two meetings. A third pitch that presumably reaches the summit is not assembled.

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