The paved road from Pachalum to Guatemala City also provides convenient access to the site of Mixco Viejo, about 12 kilometers south of Pachalum and 59 kilometers northwest of Guatemala City. Situated on a promontory overlooking the Río Pixcayá and surrounded by spectacular ravines on all sides, Mixco Viejo is the former Poqomam capital and ceremonial center, consisting of several low-rise pyramids and two ball courts. There is only one way in or out of the city, this being a narrow causeway.
Although it came under Kaqchikel influence shortly before falling to the Spanish in 1525, it shows heavy Toltec and Aztec influences, including a pair of sculptures of open-mouthed serpents with small human skulls adorning the ball court. The latter is a replica, with the original having been removed to Guatemala City.
The site, consisting of about 120 structures, was restored in the 1950s and ’60s by a French expedition. It is thought to have harbored a population of about 10,000 at the time of Spanish contact. According to Spanish accounts of the city’s siege, the battle was fought in the plains near the city after Poqomam warriors from Chinautla attacked the Spanish from behind. The few survivors then pointed the way to a secret entrance to the city, which the Spanish entered practically unopposed to destroy and kill in a merciless fashion.
Mixco Viejo is open 7 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily. Admission to the site is $3.50.
Getting to Mixco Viejo
To get to Mixco Viejo, hop on any of the buses headed to Pachalum from Guatemala City (four daily); they stop at the entrance to the ruins. It’s also accessible from the town of San Juan Sacatepéquez, a satellite town of the capital, via pickups.
It’s about a 10-minute walk up the hill from the roadside drop-off point to the ruins.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com