Tag Archives: mayan

Yucatan Travelers

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.

Visiting Chichen Itza

From the port in Progreso, Mexico, we’re taking a short flight into the Yucatan penninsula to visit the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza today. It’s going to be an eight-hour excursion – a lot of walking, a lot of flying. You’ve probably seen the site a thousand times through photographs or in produced video segments – but what about in person?

One of the most dramatically beautiful of the ancient Maya cities, Chichen Itza was discovered by Europeans in the mid-1800s, and much here remains a mystery. Experts have little information about who the Itzas might have been, and the reason they abandoned the city around 1224 is also unknown.

The sight of the immense El Castillo pyramid, rising imposingly yet gracefully from the surrounding plain, has been known to produce goose pimples on sight. The pyramid dominates the site both in size and in the symmetry of its perfect proportions. Open-jawed serpents adorn the corners of each of the pyramid’s four stairways, honoring the legendary priest-king Kukulcan (also known as Quetzalcoatl), an incarnation of the feathered serpent god.

On the Anexo del Templa de los Jaguares, just west of El Castillo, bas-relief carvings represent more important deities. On the bottom of the columns is the rain god Tlaloc. It’s no surprise that his tears represent rain – but why is the Toltec god Tlaloc honored here, instead of the Maya rain god, Charac?

At 490 feet, the juego de pelota is the largest ball court in Mesoamerica. Yet if you stand at one end of the playing field and whisper something to a friend at the other end, incredibly, you will be heard.

El Caracol is one of the few round bulidings built by the Maya, with a spiral staircase within. It’s clearly a celestial observatory.

The Groupo de las Monjas has some of the site’s most exquisite facades. A combination of Puuc and Chenes styles dominates here.

The Plaza de Mil Columnas, in typical Toltec-Maya style, once had a roof covering the parallel rows of round stone columns in a long arcade.

They honored a serpent god? Interesting. They built a celestial observatory? Fascinating. Now I wish I had brushed up on “ancient astronaut” lore before coming – if only to heighten my sense of wonder.

Toltec Wisdom

I can’t believe it – Ponzi posted something to her blog a few minutes ago! She’s been having a good time on our moneymoon cruise, too – and she’s even considering taking the Excel class on board (since I’ll be accompanying her to a Mexican cooking class later this week). We’re both looking forward to seeing the Mayan ruins:

The Four Agreements, a book that includes Toltec wisdom, has peaked [sic] my curiosity to see the birth place of its people. The language and thought patterns taught by the Toltec way seem so civilized and it’s language of community seem so selfless. Also the architecture has always caught my attention. I’ve heard stories of human sacrifice and savage games played in these places long, long ago. I’m eager to learn more truths rather than hearsay and opinions. There’s something really special about the privledge of learning about a place in person rather than through a book. I feel very fortunate to be able to go to these wonderful places. Hopefully I will gain better insight to the Mayan people of long ago, their way of living and how it has shaped or lost it’s roots in the world we live in day to day.