Meant to be a quick update, but it’s not

April 30th, 2010 Comments Off on Meant to be a quick update, but it’s not

Chichen Itza was named one of the new “7 wonders of the world” a few years back…Having been there 10 years ago, I can say that the designation has certainly increased tourism there. Prior to that, a woman fell from the top of the pyramid called El Castillo, all the way down, and died on the way to the hospital. These factors have led to the roping off of all the structures: preservation of both the ruins and lives, though I heard a guide say the decision to rope off the structures had more to do with their preservation than people falling to their deaths. Now, that’s the Mayan spirit (you know, they did practice human sacrifice).

So, watching the pulsing red sunburned tourists bussed in from Cancun in their bathing suits (they probably stop at a cenote to swim on the way), I was happy that Benjamin and I have planned to visit many more remote ruins. On the Yucatán peninsula, there are ruins everywhere, from different periods of time, with varying styles & features to keep from getting “Ruin fatigue.”

Now based in Mérida, we’re making day trips to said remote ruins. Today we visited one I can’t pronounce and can barely type: Dzibilchaltun. It was very peaceful and serene, and free from the crowds at Chichen Itza, enough to imagine what life might have been like for the Maya who lived here, as they gathered to sit on the longest set of stairs in all of MesoAmerica that surrounded the public square to watch the goings on. Now, they would have a view of newer ruins in the square: a colonial-era chapel. So much story can be told by the walls of crumbling buildings.

We’ll be visiting more ruins from here along the “Puuc Route,” a day trip that will take us to a handful of sites (Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, X-Lapak, Labna), as well as through villages and past caves and cenotes (natural swimming holes; there are underground rivers here, exposed by sinkholes in the limestone shelf of land we travel upon).

We’re also going to a place called Celestún, a fishing village, where the thing to do is rent a boat and guide to go out on the river and watch the hundreds of pink flamingos that gather here.

And between all that, Mérida is its own hub of activity (well, with a Yucatecan pace). There are free nightly concerts at the parks and plazas. Last night we went to a “serenade” in Santa Lucia Park; several groups of performers played different types of music–a 15-piece band and dancers dressed in traditional costume kicked off the show. And, these shows are not for tourists; they are for the populace of Mérida, who come in droves and purchase 10″ tall ice cream cones & hot dogs sold by vendors who wheel their carts up to the curb.

Yesterday, we met a couple who’d just arrived in Mérida and were on their way to the bus station to get tickets back to Cozumel. They didn’t think there was anything to do here! Having a car at our disposal helps, but all of these destinations are accessible with public transportation, too.

I have yet to discover the secrets of the Mayan calendar, though. It’s one of my missions while here, given that some think it predicts the end of the world in December 2012. If that happens, I really should stop worrying about the fried foods and cheese prevalent in Mexican cuisine. I’d be OK eating happy and being fat for 2 years if the world were actually going to end…

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