If you asked me how it felt to walk among the ruins of Chichen Itza, I’d say it was relatively “surreal.” I’ve seen hundreds of photos / videos of this Mayan landmark, but being there in person was nothing short of amazing. My mind is still digesting what my eyes took in; history comes alive, even in the natural silence between the towering structures. Here’s a civilization that Western cultures once considered “savage,” but they obviously posessed advanced knowledge and skills – engineering, astronomy, mathematics, et al. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.
According to the tour guide, the word “Yucatan” is actually a truncation of a translation given to foreign conquerors by the Mayans; when asked for this land’s name, local leaders responded in Mayan: “Listen. I don’t understand what you’re saying.” The first part of this phrase sounded a lot like “Yucatan” – and that’s what stuck. I also didn’t know that as a country, Yucatan requested of former US President James K. Polk full statehood! Admission to our nation was denied due to then-British settlements to the south. It’s such a beautiful land – not adequately experienced through high school textbooks and television shows.
I’d like to return some day, though not without some kind of professional archaelogical guidance (read: Indiana Jones). I’d want to dive in deeper and get more than just a taste next time around.