Ann and I had the privilege to meet one of the largest group of modern Maya. They commonly identify themselves simply as “Maya”. They speak the language which anthropologists term “Yucatec Maya”, but is identified by speakers and Yucatecos simply as “Maya”.
The Yucatán’s indigenous population was first exposed to Europeans after a party of Spanish shipwreck survivors came ashore in 1511. One of the sailors, Gonzalo Guerrero, is reported to have started a family and taken up a position of counsel among a local polity near present-day Chetumal. Later Spanish expeditions to the region were led by Córdoba in 1517, Grijalva in 1518 and Cortés in 1519.
From 1528 to 1540, several attempts by Francisco Montejo to conquer the Yucatán failed. His son, Francisco de Montejo the Younger, fared almost as badly when he first took over: while desperately holding out at Chichen Itza, he lost 150 men in a single day. European diseases, massive recruitment of native warriors from Campeche and Champoton, and internal hatred between the Xiu Maya and the lords of Cocom eventually turned the tide for Montejo the Younger, and consequently resulted in the fall of Chichen Itza by 1570. In 1542, the western Yucatán peninsula also surrendered to him.
We also were able to visit Chichen Itza. Which translates to “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”. It was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people of the Terminal Classic.
Chichen Itza was a major focal point in the Northern Maya Lowlands from the Late Classic (c. AD 600–900) through the Terminal Classic (c. AD 800–900) and into the early portion of the Postclassic period (c. AD 900–1200).
Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities, or Tollans, referred to in later Mesoamerican literature. The city may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world.
This was one for my wonders of the world checklist. The place was absolutely amazing and even though it was hotter in at Chichen Itza than it was on the sun that day it was still an amazing experience. The more you research what went on before you get there the better.
At the top of the temple there is a door that is acoustically aligned that when you clap your hands the sound bounces back with a higher pitch twang to it. The idea was that as the community watched the ceremonies happening at the top of the pyramid when they rejoiced the sound would be almost overwhelming. Causing a religious experience to be amplified ten fold.
After our visit to Chichen Itza Ann and I had a more relaxed yet odd experience. Before I can go into exactly why I have to give a little backstory. I had cut my finger rather badly on a razor while traveling to Washington D.C. The wound was starting to heal but hadn’t gone anywhere near being complete and already I could see a bit of a scar. Once we got done with the great Mayan city we traveled to what the locals call a cenote.
A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings. The term derives from a word used by the low-land Yucatec Maya, “Ts’onot” to refer to any location with accessible groundwater. Cenotes are common geological forms in low latitude regions, particularly on islands, coastlines, and platforms with young post-Paleozoic limestones that have little soil
We arrived at the cenote some hours later as a rainstorm rolled in. This was more than welcome as we had been roasting in the hot sun all day at Chichen Itza. We quickly changed into our swim wear and headed underground to the water. To say that it was cold was a bit of an understatement but once again with the hot day past us it felt amazing once you became use to the cooler temperature.
Now I had mentioned my cut finger before as a key part to this story. Looking back now jumping into a pool of stagnant water with a cut like that probably wasn’t that good of an idea but I’m still young and stupid so in I go. The part I’ve been leaving out is that on the way to the cenote we were told that this one in particular had healing properties and was known to heal the sick. Now you always take those types of stories for what they are and certainly with a grain of salt. When we were instructed of this cenote’s healing properties we mostly brushed it off. We swam in it’s cool waters relaxing after a long day in the heat. Diving in and out of the light beams that danced around the waters edge. Once we had our fill we dried off and headed back.
That night as I readied for bed I went to replace the bandage on my finger….only to find it completely healed.
Out of all the trips I’ve made in my life this one was so far my absolute favorite. I was able to see wonders like Chichen Itza, swim in a healing cenote, zip line through the jungle, canoe and swim in underground rivers and even take and ATV through the lush forests. It was an absolutely amazing experience that I will always remember.