Cultural region
Altiplano Central
( Centro de México)

Altiplano Central

Central Highlands

Mexico’s central region comprises four zones with interlinked cultural traditions: the Valley of Morelos to the south, the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley in the east, the Mexico Basin in the center and the Valley of Toluca in the west. The Valley of Morelos is the only one with a hot climate. On the other hand the three zones surrounded by high mountains to the north of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt are over 6,500 feet above sea level. These are vast areas of fertile soils, which in pre-Hispanic times had important river and lake systems.

The oldest signs of settlement are in places like Tlapacoya, Texcal and in several caves on the Tehuacan site, where evidence of the first nomadic groups was found, as well as signs of their gradual transformation into sedentary and agricultural societies.

Settlements such as Tlatilco and Chalcatzingo sprung up in the Middle Preclassic (1200-400 BC), showing significant Olmec influence. The settlement of Cuicuilco grew in the Late Preclassic (400 BC-200 AD) and was the site of the region’s first monumental public structures, while Teotihuacan started its rise between 300 and 100 BC. A series of eruptions of the Xitle volcano caused Cuicuilco to be abandoned around the beginning of the Common Era, as well as a mass population movement involving three quarters of the people of the Basin who went to the Valley of Teotihuacan.

The Classic horizon from 200 to 900 AD witnessed the first large scale urban phenomenon, with advanced urban planning and a high population density, living in residential complexes. Slope-panel was a typical feature of its architectural technique, as seen in the temples and the complexes lining the great central avenues. Teotihuacan consolidated its power and established vast exchange networks linking up distant regions, for the first time forming an integrated Mesoamerican culture. The aspects of Teotihuacan’s culture which spread elsewhere were: slope-panel architecture, the 260 day and 365 day calendars for ritual and farming purposes respectively, as well as the worship of the Plumed Serpent.

In the Epiclassic (650-900) Teotihuacan commenced a process of deterioration which culminated in its collapse, giving way to other Central Highland cities such as Cacaxtla, Xochicalco, Tula and Cholula, which acquired importance as political capitals. These centers created their own artistic styles and some of them combined elements of several cultures harmoniously, as can be appreciated from the Cacaxtla murals, the Xochicalco reliefs and the architectural features of cities such as Cantona, San Miguel Ixtapan and Teotenago.

Tula dominated a large swathe of central Mexico in the Early Postclassic (900-1200), basing its power on the god Quetzalcoatl. After its fall other sites came to dominate smaller territories, notably Huamango, Calixtlahuaca, Texcoco, Cholula, Huexotzinco and Azcapotzalco. The Nahua political centers sought to rule other regions linked by their Toltec heritage and their overlord, Quetzalcoatl. This was how Azcapotzalco developed. Originally a Tepanec city, it ruled over the Highland towns when the Mexica first arrived in the area.

The Mexica and the people of Texcoco defeated Azcapotzalco and other Tepanec territories in 1430, forming a politico-military alliance with Texcoco and Tlacopan (Tacuba). It was known as the Triple Alliance. The governors of the three cities aided each other politically, economically and militarily, and the alliance made possible a series of conquests which led to the subjugation of more than 400 towns and fiefdoms in Mesoamerica. Despite the Triple Alliance’s great influence there were places which managed to resist the might of the Mexica and stay free of its political influence. These included Metztitlan, Tlaxcala, Cholula and Yopitzinco.


Acozac (Ixtapaluca)
Estado de México
1702
178
Arroyo seco
Guanajuato
16440
504
1866
182
Calixtlahuaca
Estado de México
1703
183
Cantona
Puebla
1775
227
Cerro de la Estrella
Ciudad de México
1696
230
Chalcatzingo
Morelos
1747
184
Chimalhuacán
Estado de México
1704
235
Cholula
Puebla
1776
186
Coatetelco
Morelos
1748
238
Cuicuilco
Ciudad de México
1698
245
El Cerrito
Querétaro
1780
190
El Conde
Estado de México
1705
191
Huamango
Estado de México
1706
260
Huapalcalco
Hidalgo
1734
264
Huexotla
Estado de México
1707
266
Las Pilas
Morelos
1749
281
Los Melones
Estado de México
1708
284
Los Reyes La Paz
Estado de México
1709
285
Malinalco
Estado de México
1710
287
Mixcoac
Ciudad de México
17293
516
Ocotelulco
Tlaxcala
1867
292
Ocoyoacac
Estado de México
1711
293
Olintepec
Morelos
1750
294
Pahñú
Hidalgo
1735
346
Ranas
Querétaro
1781
205
San Miguel Ixtapan
Estado de México
1712
305
Santa Cecilia Acatitlán
Estado de México
1713
306
Tancama
Querétaro
1782
343
14643
501
Templo Mayor
Ciudad de México
1699
312
Tenayuca
Estado de México
1714
314
Tenayuca II
Estado de México
1715
314
Teopanzolco
Morelos
1751
316
Teotenango
Estado de México
1716
317
Teotihuacán
Estado de México
1717
382
Tepapayeca
Puebla
1777
318
1778
320
Tepozteco
Morelos
1752
321
14641
500
Tetzcotzinco
Estado de México
1718
206
Tizatlán
Tlaxcala
1869
207
Tlapacoya
Estado de México
1719
324
Tlatelolco
Ciudad de México
1700
325
Toluquilla
Querétaro
1783
208
Tula
Hidalgo
1736
210
1737
319
Xochicalco
Morelos
1753
157
Yautepec
Morelos
1754
216
1868
311
Altiplano Central

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