Last Saturday, I visited my first Mayan ruin site in Guatemala. A group of 18 of us from school embarked at 7:30am to go to the Iximche ruins in Tecpan. I’ve been to Maya sites before, in Mexico—Chichen Itza, Coba, and Tulum—but this was my first trip in Guatemala.
The day was beautiful, the ruin site surrounded by trees and a cool breeze. We had a great guide named Alexis, who had good English, but I think once he found out Kelly and Jane have good Spanish, he relaxed and spoke more Spanish, letting them translate more than he would have had to. But that’s just my opinion.
|Iximche, Tecpan, Guatemala|
Alexis had some very interesting bits to share about the city and its customs.
The first thing I learned: the Maya made their steps tall and narrow so that one would be forced to go up them sideways, ensuring that one’s back was never turned to the sun located behind the steps. (This made me think back to the many, many tall steps along the Inca trail and wonder if the Incas had similar ingenuity in mind).
We saw the ball court, and learned the size of the ball, that the game there was played by bouncing the ball off of the hip and knees only, and that the game was not used, as in other places, to decide upon a sacrificial victim, but as a game for the ruling class to play. As Alexis told us, at Iximche, “They killed their enemies, not their own people.” Must have been downright progressive.
|The ball would have been about this big... and would have|
weighed about 5-8lbs.
We were shown how the 4 plazas (one for each of 4 families) were laid out and we tried to imagine what the area would have looked like with 75 people living in each plaza. At the end of the tour, we checked out the relief map in the museum and got a better feel for how the place would have looked with the buildings’ original adobe walls and thatch roofs. (All that is left now are the stone foundations).
|Kelly translating Alexis's explanation for us.|
The tour ended at the fourth plaza, where a Maya spiritual ritual was taking place. Alexis explained to us what was going on in hushed tones, but I’ve forgotten most of that part of the tour. Just watching the ritual without any understanding was cool enough.
Even so, I left the day feeling like I’d learned something, seen a beautiful new part of Guatemala, and had spent the day with great people. Really, what more could you ask of a Saturday?