Mexican archaeologist Sergio Gómez discovered the Teotihuacan underworld on October 2, 2003.
It was Tláloc, the god of rain in the pre-colonial tradition, who revealed to him a “place full of abundance, where he would acquire new life,” according to Alfonso Caso in his book El Pueblo del Sol (The people of the sun). That rainy morning, the archeologist, who is the one in charge of the restoration of the temple of the Feathered Serpent, was warned about a leak in front of the building he had known for many years, when he was a Psychology student, by one of his workers.
Back then, because of his financial situation, the university student agreed to be in charge of the Teotihuacán library. His work consisted on transporting the books required by the researchers, from Mexico City to the archeological zone. The journey was long and tiring, and it was accompanied by a large number of books: “My job was to read,” the 58-year-old man told me, while he smoked a cigarette.
On the morning of the discovery, Sergio determined that the water accumulated in the square filtered through a hole with a diameter of 83 centimeters. He asked the workers to tie a rope around his waist and lower him into the hole. During the 13-meter descent, he felt the humidity in the walls, which were perfectly carved and made of tepetate, a type of volcanic rock. Then, he noticed something that looked like a tunnel. “It was completely full of dirt and rocks. Trough the surface, we managed to see the marks of the tools with which it had been excavated. Then we noticed that it wasn’t something natural; that it wasn’t a craftsman well for irrigation (either). It was a very important moment, full of excitement.”
Excavating the bureaucracy
An archeologist’s instinct is to excavate. Like hounds, they obey their sense of smell and their unstoppable desire for removing the dirt that surrounds them. But the world or archeology doesn’t work impulsively. Least of all, in regards to the emblematic archeological zone of Teotihuacán, the place where gods were created, a destination that welcomes around 5 million tourists every year, who visit the citadel of a large city that, during its prime, was inhabited by around 100,000 people, according to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
During the following months, through different methods, the archeologist tried to discover the inside of his find. Along with a friend, they adapted a remote control car with a camera and placed it inside the slit in between the mud and the vault, but the plan failed, as the car only moved a meter and a half and got stuck.
It was a rough start and the first obstacle of the many other they would have to face before extracting the first fist-full of dirt. It was followed by a change at the INAH, which resulted in the cancellation of the conservation project of the temple, which allowed them to work on the area, because of “a lack of resources.”
A major blow
The young researcher had moved from Mexico City to Teotihuacán after the 1985 earthquake. The job as a librarian had ended up involving him with archeologists, as he liked to be “nosy” and it was one of them who motivated him to change majors when they found out about his ability to draw.
Then, as a professional, he had been authorized to restore the temple based on a legitimate concern, since he “saw how it was falling to pieces.” It was the first important project under his leadership. What he never imagined was that his passion for that building would take him to the secret passage that was now being revealed to him, in the most explored archeological zone in the country.
Aware of the opportunity, he decided to look for the resources. He invested the following years on facing bureaucracy. It was until 2009, six years after his find when the archeologist finally received a document that authorized him to begin the exploration.