Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Postscript to a Post About My Trip To Chichen Itza ...

Some of you may remember a post I wrote on my trip to Chichen Itza in the Quintana Roo, Mexico in 2002?

For those who haven't, it's HERE.

You can read the full story in that post, but briefly, this is an updated postscript to that post.

We had hired an authentic Mayan guide (Spanish name "Abel"  - can't remember his Mayan name, difficult for me to pronounce) to give us a private tour. He was an archaeology student at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán in Merida.

During our tour, we watched many people spill their beer, nachos, and potato chip bags all over El Castillo/Temple of Kukulcan, while climbing up and down it, not bothering to clean up after themselves.

I watched Abel's face fall and apologized on their behalf, as most of them were American.

He informed us that the temple used to be painted red, green, and gold, but years of neglect by the Mexican government before it became a public park, combined with then allowing the public to tromp all over and through it, wore it down to unadorned stone.

He also informed us that San Gervasio, the catholic church just outside of Chichen Itza, was built with stolen stones from Chichen Itza, and he vowed to never step inside.

I apologized for this travesty as well. I'm not Catholic, but we Christians in general have behaved badly with other cultures and faiths in general, in our conquest and demand that everyone follow our faith.

We hit it off fairly well, Abel and I, and he told me that I was different than most Americans, respectful, and asked why I wanted to come to Chichen Itza.

I told him that I had read about it years ago and became fascinated - not with the alien conspiracy stuff, of course, but its other mysteries, among them being the identity of "The Bearded Man," for whom a temple was created - Mayans had no facial hair, so who was this person  - an unrecorded missionary or Viking?  (Abel believes it was an unrecorded Viking - for why, read the post.)

Or why their architecture was so similar to South Asian/Indian architecture, as well as why they depicted elephants with trunks in their artwork, despite them not being indigenous to Mexico? 

Was it tales handed down from ancestors who had seen them in land-bridge theory? Or were they mastodons, which did exist much later in Mesoamerica than we previously thought?

And of course, to marvel at how a Precolumbian civilization, so isolated from the rest of the world, was able to be so advanced in astrology, mathematics, and engineering that the Spanish marveled when they arrived, and to this day, our astronomical observatories are shaped exactly like Mayan observatories, because it's the best way to view the stars from all angles at different times of the year?

I had told him that I had also always wanted to see the mighty red clay jaguar with jade eyes inside the temple as well, but I didn't want to offend him, plus I didn't want to contribute to its degradation.

However, he encouraged me to go, because I had such a love and respect for his people - plus he said it was being discussed that soon, they were going to close it off so that no one would climb it again.

Then he gave me his blessing, and our whole conversation is within that post, but the gist of it is, Abel literally said, "Go - Voya con Dios, your God and mine - go climb that temple and see our mighty jaguar that you have come all of this way to see and always wanted to see!"

"And you may be among the last to see it. I will not go with you, but you have my blessing, on behalf of my people.  In your case, showing us so much respect, we are happy to share it with you,  you're the right kind of people."  😊

In return, I told him that when at the top, after climbing the outside, I would kneel at their altar, but say a prayer of repentance to my God, asking for forgiveness for what for what we did to their people.

I also promised Abel that like him, I would never set foot in St. Gervasio, built with stolen stones from Chichen Itza.

And I did exactly that.  I don't think I mentioned kneeling at the altar in the post, but I did exactly that, not caring what anyone thought about it.

Anyway, the update - so I just now learned that they did indeed close El Castillo/Temple of Kukulcan to the public in 2006 - you are no longer allowed to climb the inside to see the jaguar, nor climb the outside to the altar.

Which means that in fact, Abel was right - I am among the last of the general public  to ever climb to the top, both inside and outside!

I don't consider myself a lucky person at all; in fact, quite the opposite.

But what a privilege, what a blessing, right? 

And I'm so grateful that I received an authentic Mayan's blessing to do so!

I don't have a picture of the jaguar (flash photography was not allowed inside the temple, plus there was literally a chain-link fence in front of it) -  but here I am, having just descended from the top, both hands raised in some combination of the triumph of having climbed it, gratitude, and pure joy 😊

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