Just 5.5 miles away from Cuetzalan (and, thankfully, connected by a decent paved road) is the little village of Yohualichán (pronounced Yo-Wally-Chán).
At the center of the village is a small, rustic church with a very simple interior.
A hand-embroidered cloth on the altar
Obviously, visitors do not come to Yohualichán to see its church. Right behind it is an archaeological site.
Yohualichán was founded by the Totonac tribe around A.D. 200, and it was their earliest ceremonial center. It reached its height around A.D. 600. Then, around 800, the Totonacs moved their capital to the more famous site of El Tajín, about 35 miles to the northeast in the present-day state of Veracruz. We do not know the name by which the Totonacs actually called this site. It was the Aztecs who later gave it the name of Yohualichán, which in their language means “The House of Night”. It was perhaps a reference to the many caves in the area.
The archaeological site is small but rather impressive.
As you enter you first come to the ball court which is over 300 feet long. The ball game was more than a sport; it was a religious ceremony that was held in common by all the civilizations of pre-Hispanic Mexico.
Below the ball court is a large rectangular plaza faced by five structures which served as temples. These buildings would have all been covered in smooth stucco and painted.
The buildings all feature distinctive square niches which archaeologists think are a stylized representation of the caves in the region. Because of subsidence of the soil the rows of niches are no longer straight in many places. This architectural motif would be used again in their later capital of El Tajín in the famous Pyramid of the Niches.
In this photo, which I took from the internet, you can see how the pyramid at El Tajín is similar in style to the buildings at Yohualichán. I have never visited El Tajín which is supposed to be very impressive. Perhaps we can take an excursion there someday in the future.
Although it is small, the archaeological site at Yohaulichán was definitely worth seeing.