Maya

10.05.2011

Nearly half of Guatemala population is  Mayan. It is a very characterisitc ethnic group with Indian roots inhabiting southern Mexico and parts of Central America, including Guatemala. The origins of Maya civilisation date back to 400 B.C. In Guatemala and neighboring countries like Mexico, Belize and Honduras you can find rich heritage of this unique civilisation. It includes temples, pyramids with stairs, infamous stone fields where football was played using hips only and the loser would be killed ceremonially. Their hieroglyphic writing system has not been fully decoded yet.

At its peak the Maya developed the 20-based numbering system, carried out advanced astronomical observations and calculations and used very precise time keeping systems. After Spanish conquest, their civilisation fully declined.The last independent Maya city, Tayasal, situated on the Peten Itza lake in northern Guatemala, was conquered as late as 1697. It is there, the city which is now know as Flores, where we spent several beautiful days.

Flores has a picturesque location on an island connected with the mainland (cities of Santa Elena and San Bonito) by a short causeway. It reminds us of a tranquil town somewhere in Tuscany. It has a lot going for it like the fantastic, surrounding lake with its velvety water. I do not think I have ever swum in nicer waters in my life!

Flores – Video

Ania & Ania

About an hour drive north of Flores there is an equally breathtaking place, regarded as the cradle of Maya civilisation, i.e. Tikal. Probably it is also the former capital of the Maya state, founded in III A.D. After years of prosperous growth Tikal was deserted by its inhabitants in a mysterious way in IX A.D. Its remnants, rediscovered in XVII A.D. by Spanish missionaries, are hidden deep in a jungle. The include pyramids with stairways, plazas, and temples as high as 65 m (IV).Tikal with the surrounding national park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Walking around this park it is common to observe rich wildlife such as howler and spider monkeys, parrots, oropendoles, tarantuals, tucans etc.

Tikal – video

Aniusia i Wojtus_IV

Dla tych co nie mają lęku wysokości

Wspinaczka na piramidę

Plaza Central, Tikal

The decline of the Maya civilisation does not mean it can only be seen in the architecture left behind. This culture remains alive among the characteristic Maya population.The Mayans main activity today is agriculture (coffee, corn, etc) as well as weaving. The latter is very colorful and hand made on special looms with typical patterns. The Maya people speak, apart from Spanish, their own dialects. There are over 30 of them in Guatemala! In San Pedro de Laguna on the Lake Atitlan, where we are right now, the local dialect is called Tz’utuhil. It sounds like a mix between Chinese and Hebrew to me with its many back-throat sounds. The use of the dialect is so common that even the Holy Mass is said in it and Spanish.

IMG_53981_thumb2

Another typical feature of Maya is their short height, which is more os less the same as our kids age, 7, and 9. They also don richly adorned clothes, mostly worn by women but not only …

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