Opening Statement



Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Mexican Mayan Riviera Diary 3: Chichen Itza

The Mayan Ruin photos are now posted below this blog column. Also, if you click on my slide show at upper top left screen you can see and enlarge them on Flickr. You will also still find the other Mexico trip photos from before there too! Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday July 19th

We managed to arrange a small mini bus to go see the Mayan Ruins at Chichen Itza, perhaps the best way to travel. All of our arrangments and fees were expediently taken care of at a very reasonable rate. The only drawback was that the back of the bus was overcrowded with children. The parents sat at the front and were only too happy to ignore them as they screamed, fought and threw things. I gave them the old evil eye, a few very very direct words were exchanged with their folks, and that pretty much fixed the situation. We had to pull over when one kid almost fell out the door onto the highway, but everyone gave us wide berth, and even apologized later. That was the only fly in the ointment. Too each their own, we just did our own thing and had a great time.

We passed through two checkpoints driving into Yucatan State from the Mayan Riviera; a police and military one. Security was tight, but I didn't see the hummers with machine gun mounts like during our last visit two years ago. It was a fairly short drive. We had been told to expect three hours each way, it was just under half that. There was new highway construction  along most of the route and the new roadways seem to definately be speeding up the trip.

It was a fairly short walk into the jungle, past the Mayan venders. We were taken first to a touist trap, it seemed to be run by Lazis, the jewelery store we visited near our hotel, with the locals working on commission. Everyone around Chichen Itza was pretty much Mayan, short, fairly squat, be they Lazis employees or the vendors with their little tables in the jungle. We preferred to pick up some bric a brac from the latter, seemed more direct, but who really knows what was going on. We were definately far from home.

Apparantly the Mayans still live in the jungles across Yucatan in their thatched huts, usually near a ceynote cavern or sistern as a water source. The soil is very thin and overlays a vast limestone deposit full of underground rivers. Lots of fresh water, not very good for farming, it's a basic subsistance level life. They don't work, per see, and pay no taxes, so they don't receive any government services, including state schooling, electricity, social insurance and so on. However they seem to live a fairly simple idyllic life off on their own. I wonder if that is not better than  a city ghetto or aboriginal reservation? They hunt, fish, grow what they can, sell handicrafts to the tourists; pottery, linens, hammocks, carvings. They seem very quiet and polite if you see them at all, more or less blending into the background. Once I saw a family in the town of Playa De Carmen, wearing simple robes, quietly standing along the walls, collecting the pop cans the tourists were tossing away. I suppose they wanted the metal, or could maybe get a deposit for them. It's perhaps an understatement to say social justice may very well not be all that prevelant here.

As we climbed off our bus at the ruins, a little Mayan girl stepped up with some embroided peso handerchiefs to wipe off our sweat. She had a little handful of them and was very careful to count out the change correctly. Quite a delightful child, unlike our own little Canadian monsters piling off the bus. We made our way over to the ruin site. The Mayans deserted their cities for reasons unknown in  the nineth and tenth century. The Spanish conquistidors and vandals over the centuries robbed the temples and tombs of their silver and gold, and made off with or despoiled a lot of the fine stone carvings and so on. The church destroyed many of the Mayan's "devil" books and records, replacing them with the cross, and the sword. Instead of many spirits and gods there is now but one.

Fortunately, the Mayans also carved most of their stories in stone graphics, which have basically been decoded over the past century, shedding more light on their story. It is now known that they could be very cruel and brutal, were big on human sacrifice, slavery and war. They were pretty advanced with numbers, calanders, and excelled in mathematics. We know the Mayan pyrmaids served a variety of purposes, including, by their construction, serving as giant clocks, which could measure the movements of the sun, planets and stars, to tell time, and predict eclipses up to 33 years in advance.

Janet and I walked through the jungle grounds and clearings exploring the various ruins. I think we saw about two thirds of them. There were quite a few pyramids, temples, palaces, pillars, statues and so on. Much of it is now scattered stone surrounded by bush. Over a thousand years later a lot of it is being reconstructed and rebuilt with great care. It is quite awesome to walk among the ruins, with just the sounds of the jungle, under the hot hot sun, about forty degrees celsuis. Very powerful. I took lots of pictures which I will look at later, with maps and more info, to try to learn more. We were content just to walk about and take it all  in.

The huggest pyramid, in the centre of the grounds, has now been declared one of the seven wonders of the world. It looms over everything, a massive stone presence, with rows of steps, now inaccessible to visitors, up to a small temple on the top. Two sides have been restored, the other two are still very ragged, crumbling stone. It is quite a contrast. 

If you have seen the movie "Apocalypso", it uses computer graphics to restore the ancient city of Chichen Itza to how we believe it originally looked, the buildings, people, activities and so on. I look forward to seeing it again.

We stopped for a very nice, if not simple Mexican meal at a little roadside restaurant on our way home. The chef cooked pulled pork on a huge skillet while another woman made fresh flatbread to roll it in, along with a dollop of salsa. Mucho gusto! Add your own Habanero XX Picente Sauce to taste, and wash it down, drinking iced cold bottles of coke. Excellente! Small Mayan men and women in traditional dress danced in front of a mural of the pyramids, balancing bottles of beer on their heads at one point. Go figure. Bizarre perhaps, but somehow very Mexicano too. It was all very reasonably priced, unlike on the resort, and we were happy to tip the locals generously, who smiled and waved as we drove off.

We took a pit stop in a small city to relax at a little corner cafe, across from the plaza, or central park. They are traditionally at the heart of each Mexican or for that matter Spanish city. A Mayan pyramid once stood there, but it was destroyed by the conquistidors, and the rubble used to build the original settlement. In  the centre of the parque is a fountain statue, of a Mayan Virgin [?], water flowing everywhere but from her empty vase. She stands alone across the street from the grand facade of the Catholic church. She is surrounded by grotesque statues of huge green frogs, a Mayan symbol of perservence. A small unwashed Mayan boy lay sleeping on a nearby bench, surrounded by the elders, with their lined, weathered faces. Two woman stood silently, opening and closing a handcrafted hammock. They had a small stack of them for sale. It was rush hour, and much of the city life was zipping by, the rumble of tourist buses and trucks. Honking cars. The late afternoon glaring sun and dead heat was quite oppressively overbearing. They stood there all but unseen, passed by in a world time ravaged and then forgot.

There is a lot here to think and reflect upon later. It was a real eye opener, very interesting, but not all glum and introspective. It was a lot of fun too, a good adventure.

More later......



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A careful analytical study!

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Please scratch my back.

I can't find my underwear!.

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Have you seen them!

Weee! I can fly!

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Look! I can crawl thru walls!

I have a headache!

I have a headache!
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I have a square hole in my bum!

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I have an ugly baby!

I have an ugly baby!
No I'm not!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!

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OK but I need a new hand too!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

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You don't look well.

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No. My head hurts +I have a sore chest.

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The Temple of Kukulkan!

Gotta love it!

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Truly amazing!

Under Reconstruction!

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Temples + Snakes!

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The Snake!

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It runs the length of the ball field!