Friday, July 3, 2015

Mexico!

My summer so far has been uneventful...just kidding! Somehow it has been more busy than parts of my school year! And this blog post chronicles one of my adventures that includes jungles, a wedding, and a whole bunch of Mexicans.
Oh no! Here they come!

If you haven't guessed already, my family is Mexican. Bonafide, taco-eating, Spanish speaking Latinos. While my siblings and I are "halvsies," we are still in touch with that side of our heritage. We were totally more in touch this past weekend after a visit to Cancun to witness my Uncle's wedding. A big welcome to my new Aunt Val! She's welcome to the craziness of our Mexican family. 
This is the cover of a romance novel somewhere

Two days before the wedding we lounged around the beach/pool, eating more than enough food at the buffet. Seriously. This included a chocolate fountain and crepe maker. The wedding itself was gorgeous-right at sunset they said their vows. We danced on the beach to the sound of waves crashing just a few feet away (also Mexican/American music). Even humungous jumping spiders falling from the trees couldn't stop our excitement. I'm so excited to add Val to the mix, and she will hopefully suffer through enjoy the hijinks that my family has to offer!
Not pictured: the pranks of my aunts/uncles

After the wedding I spent more time by the beach...just kidding! First I went shopping at Playa del Carmen, a tourist area near the beach. And thanks to my Mexican Grandma teaching mad bargaining skillz, I acquired a few goodies from the market. Mexican goodies, like figurines for my classroom and a Chicharito jersey. I also love Frida Kahlo's paintings, so I made sure to buy a copy of one!

Of course I wanted to see the ruins too! Ever since I was a child, I'd heard stories of the Mayan and Aztecs conquering the jungles of Mexico. My Papi (abuelo, actually) would tell me in his rough accent "Mija, your family is old. They sacrificed people and threw their heads down the pyramid. You are a princess!" These stories made me insanely curious about the land of my ancestors, even though now I think that my royalty connection is only an affectionate name from my Grandpa. 

Our first stop was Tulum, a very short drive from our hotel. The site is tucked deep into the jungle, with a cliff overlooking the ocean making it nearly impenetrable. Eight foot thick walls defended the city's other borders. The limestone was smooth but cut in very straight lines. We marveled at the architectural wonder, one built nearly 1,000 years ago.

Little platforms throughout the site served as places to lay sacrifices to the gods. A main export of the city was honey, so descending gods with stingers are carved into the buildings. Tulum captured my heart...and my blood. Apparently June is mosquito high-season, and we were covered in the little bites by the end of the trip. Eh, methinks the gods were satisfied!


The next day I really wanted to visit Chichén Itzá, one of the 7 wonders of the New World. In 6th grade I did a model of the main pyramid and presented it to the class. From that point I've always wanted to visit, and it being close by meant that I just had to go. The problem? No one else wanted to do it since it was a 12 hour excursion, including 4-6 hours of bus time. And no one wanted me to go by myself into the jungle. Meh. I did it anyways.
I saw this and said "hey, why not?"

After an early morning drive, we stopped at a cenote, one of thousands in Mexico. It is a sinkhole that exposes the groundwater below. The Mayans thought these were passages to the rain god, Chaac Mool. The water is pure, and of course there were sacrifices! I stopped at cenote Hubiku; I can't seem to find out if they sacrificed anyone there. The water was colored this beautiful clear blue, crisp on my toes. I didn't go in, just on the off chance they did sacrifice there once...no need for another!

And finally...Chichén Itzá! I walked through the jungle with little stands of people selling knick-knacks along the way, calling out "pretty senorita!" At the clearing, there it was: El Castillo, or the Temple of Kukulcan. Built somewhere between the 9th-12 centuries, the pyramid features 365 steps to represent days in a year, and nine foundations for the time of fertility/pregnancy. The acoustics of the buildings allow for a noise like the Quetzl bird when one claps in front of the stairs(watch here). During the solstices, a snakelike figure creeps up the side, representing one of the gods. Really, really cool stuff here. I was in awe for about 10 minutes at the base of this relic.



Later in the tour we stopped by the Temple of the Warrior, which consists of 200 round and square columns. Each represents the story of a famous warrior, carved deep into the limestone. At the top a basin that would contain sacrifices laid between two columns. As the sun rose during one of their religious ceremonies, it would stop between the two columns, seemingly taking the blood sacrifice into the sky. The blood appeased the gods until the next season.
Okay, so I am very anti-messing with history.
But the ropes were pretty much on these columns...
and I really wanted to see how it felt. 
It felt old.

The ball court came next. The Mayans built a stadium to enact the religious ceremony, one that required players to put a solid rubber ball through a stone hoop. I did not realize how high this ring would be, at about 20 feet in the air. The court also created multiple echos as the result of different sizes of stone and the indentation of the rock. One could whisper at the end, and be heard all the way over on the other side. Impressive, yet again.

 I found the symbols of the culture fascinating, and not unlike those I find in my 19th century jewelry research. Images of jaguars, snakes, and skulls gave insight into the beliefs of the ancient Mayans. Hmmm dare I see two of my three motif blog posts adorning the buildings of my ancestors.
On the way back we stopped at Valladolid. Francisco de Montejo's nephew conquered the Mayan village in the area in 1545, using stone from the structures to build a grand church. I didn't have very much time to explore. Also my phone died. I stepped inside for a bit, and was not surprised by the epically gruesome effigies to God. Fake blood dripped down plaster statues. In one corner, a glass coffin with a body lay in the shadows. I slowly walked over for a closer view...to be rewarded with a representation of a suffering Jesus. I am Catholic, but even that was bit much for me.
On the way home I nommed on peanuts bought from a street vendor 

It has taken several days to recover. From a lovely heat rash to sheer exhaustion, my body battled this trip 100%. But it was totally awesome to see Val and Uncle Mario get married, haggle in the streets in Spanish, practice gluttony, visit ruins, and dance all night in the sand. Oh, and did I mention local flora/fauna?
I made a friend!
This trip was one part history, one part love, and another ancient lore. I am so lucky to be blessed with the opportunity to visit the place of my ancestors. In many years I'll remember this trip and the little lessons along the way. For now, I think I'm done with traveling...

JK. Vegas soon.

~Kristen

1 comment:

  1. It's funny; I look similar to you, and I'm 50% English, 50% French. Go figure. Love hearing about family heritage!

    ReplyDelete

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