Mexico Culture and Mayan history
Mexico City is the capital and there is 100 million people in this country. The languages are Spanish and indigenous including Maya and Nahuati. The peso is the currency here and climate varies from tropical to desert.
This country is the most visited country in Latin America and whilst it has sophisticated facilities to support tourists it is mostly traditional.
Texas and California were once part of Mexico. Through the free trade agreement, many Mexicans go to the US to work, often illegally. It’s partly this dichotomy between the desire for US style consumerism and material prosperity and traditional Latin American values on the other. The Americans come to Cancun for their holidays, apparently 70% of visitors to Mexico come through Cancun.
Mexico is home to the two greatest cultures the Aztec and May as well as other indigenous populations including Maya, Mixtec, Zapotec, living the same as they have for hundred of years, speaking their language and cultivating land as their foreears did. The great May sites include Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Palenque in the Yucatan, at the Zapotec sites of Monte Alban, Yagul and Mitla in Oaxaca state and Aztec sites of Tenochtitlan and Teotihuacan close to Mexico City.
Mexico has arid canyons and cactus badlands of the north to the tropical rainforests of the south, it also has thousands of kilometers of pacific and Caribbean coastline. It has the second largest barrier reef (Australia is the largest). The country has a god infrastrucuture and is considered safe to travel in with the exception of Mexico city.
Mayan Sites in Yucatan
Chichen Itza is the most impressive site with vertiginous temple, snail-shaped observatory and distinctive reclining statues or Chaac-Mools. There are many mysteries of the Maya astronomical calendar are made clear when one understands the design of the ‘time temples. At the vernal and autumnal equinoxes (March 20-21 and September 21-22) the morning and afternoon sun produces a light and shadow illusion of the serpent ascending or descending the side of El Castillo’s staircase. Most archaeologists agree that the first major settlement at Chichen Itza during the late classic period was pure Maya. In around the 9th century the city was largely abandoned for reasons unknown. It was resettled around the late 10th century and Mayanists believe shorter after it was invaded by the Toltecs who had migrated from their central highlands capital of Tula, north of Mexico City, Toltec culture was fused with the Maya, incorporating the cult of Quetzalcoatl (Kukulca in Maya). In this city you see images of both Chac-Mool, the maya rain god, and Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent. The fusion of highland central Mexican and Puuc architectural styles makes Chichen unique among the Yucatan Peninsula’s ruins. The El Castillo and the Platforma de Venus are outstanding architectural works built during the height of Toltec cultural input. The warlike Toltecs contributed more than their architectural skills to the Maya. They elevated human sacrifice to near obsession and numerous carvings of the bloody ritual in Chichen Itza demonstrated this.
El Castillo (Pyramid of Kukalan). The first temple here was pre-Toltec built around AD 800. the structure is 25 metres high, built over the old one, has the plumed serpent sculpted along the stairways. The pyramid is actually the Maya calendar formed in stone. Each of El Castillo’s nine levels is divided in two by a staircase making 18 separate terraces that commemorate the 18 20 day months of the Vague Year. The four stairways have 91 steps each, add the top platform and the total is 365, the number of days in a year. On each façade of the pyramid are 52 flat panels, which are reminders of the 52 years in the Calendar Round. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, light and dhow form a series of triangles on the side of the north stair case that mimic the creep of a serpent. It ascends in March and descends in September. The older pyramid inside El Castillo boasts a red jaguar throne with inlaid eyes and spots of jade, it also holds a Chac Mool figure. The passage up to the throne is at the base on the north side.
The great ball court, the largest and most impressive in Mexico is one of the city’s eight courts, indicative of the importance of games. The court is flanked by temples at either end and bounded by towering parallel walls with tone rings cemented up high (like basket ball hoops). It is thought they played a soccer like game with a rubber ball but the use of hands was forbidden. Other carvings show players wielding bats, if hit the ball through the hoop then one declared the winner. The court’s acoustics are amazing and conversation at one end can be heard 135 metres away. The temple at the northern end is called the Temple of the Bearded Man after carving inside, has finely sculpted pillars and relief’s of flowers, birds and trees. The Temple of the Jaguars and Shields, built atop the southeast corner of the ball court’s wall has some columns with carved rattlesnakes and tables with etched jaguars, inside faded mural fragments depicting a battle. Platforma de los Craneos – The Platform of Skulls is between the Templo de los Jaguares and El Castillo T-shaped platform festooned with carved skulls and eagles tearing open the chests of men to eat their hearts. Plataforma de Las Aguilas Y Los Jaguares is adjacent to the Tzompantli, carvings on the Platform of Eagles and Jaguars depicts those animals gruesomely grabbing human hearts with claws, it is thought this platform is dedicated to the military legions responsible for capturing sacrificial victims. Cenote Sagrado is 300m rough stone road runs north to a huge sunken well that gave the city its name. The Sacred Cenote is a natural well. Grupo De Las Mil Columnas comprises the Temple De Los Guerreros (Temple of the Warriors), Templo de Chac-Mool and Bano de Vapor (Sweat house or Steam Bath) is behind El Castillo, takes its name group of the Thousand Columns from the forest of pillar stretching south and east. El Osario is know as the Bone house or the Tumba del Gran Saccerdote (High Priest Grave) is a ruined pyramid south west of El Cstillo. It is notable for the serpent heads at the base of its staircases. El Carocol (the snail) is fascinating. Its circulardesign resembles some central highlands structures, although, surprisingly, not those of Toltec Tula. There are Maya Chac-Mool rain god masks over four external doors facing the cardinal directions. The windows in the observatory’s dome are aligned with the appearance of certain stars at specific dates. From the dome the priests decreed the times for rituals, celebrations, corn planting and harvests. Edificio De Las Monjas and La Iglesia thought to have been a palace for Maya royalty, so called Nunnery with its myriad rooms resembled a European convent. Akab-Dzib east of the nunnery, the Puuc style Akab-Dzib is thought to be the most ancient structure. Central chambers date from the 2nd century. Name means ‘obscure writing’ in Maya and refers to the south side annex door whose lintel depicts a priest with a vase etched with hieroglyphics that have never been translated.
Other Sites in the Yatucan
Other sacred sites such as Calakmul was partly restored is the largest ruined city in Mesoamerica with the base of its great pyramid covering 5 acres and the view of the highest temple on a clear day can see Guatemala. The smaller site of Uxmal is celebrated for its decorative geometric style and stone mosaic friezes. Palenque is in Chiapas is surrounded by jungle.