Magic and mystery at Chichen Itza, a place stopped in timeDecember 9, 2018
My professor of Hispanic American Art, at the University of Havana, Rosario Novoa, was like a quaint survivor of the shipwreck. Small, elderly, with a short hairstyle combed forward, used to perch on the classroom table to get the student’s attention.
When I spoke about a site or a work, I knew it first hand, while we had to settle for photos, book illustrations or slides.
In that time of hard indoctrination and fear, where disciples of the Stalinist Mirta Aguirre made entrance interviews, full of traps to detect the “ideological diversionists” and block them the entrance to the School of Letters, because the university was for the revolutionaries, nor dream of a trip overseas to know the art of the “Latin American countries.”
In the middle of the debacle, however, in the eighties, I managed a trip to Mexico, where in a few days I was able to get acquainted with its vast culture in key places.
I had to wait, however, until these last 26 years of freedom to be able to choose, at my convenience and pleasure, my national and international cultural incursions that have been completing, definitely, the illustrative and memorable lessons of my teacher Novoa.
I have just made a visit, certainly fascinating, to Chichén Itzá on the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán that reminded me of the two times I have been able to enjoy Teotihuacán, another of the emblematic places of the original populations of our America.
In the case of the Mayan settlement of Chichén Itzá, such lush nature attracts attention, high temperatures and humidity. The guide who, fortunately, led the tour, made it clear, by means of domestic photos, that he was married to a girl of Mayan origin and that his little daughters had such beautiful eyes.
His knowledge of the place was paradigmatic for the wise, without pedantry, and very anecdotal. We learned that the Maya were only wrong in six seconds when they compared their way of measuring time with the accuracy of current atomic clocks.
He told us, too, that the blocks of the dazzling buildings were made by mixing with water the characteristic limestone of the place and that the great pyramid, known as the Castle, in tribute to the god Kukulcán (the feathered serpent of other Mesoamerican cultures), has 365 steps, as the days of the year, in addition to other numerological circumstances that express a significant knowledge of science among the Maya.
He made the anecdote of how the powerful did not sacrifice themselves by offering life, but they made incisions in the penis, from where emanated the blood demanded by the gods and that, to mitigate such pain, they introduced through the anus something like suppositories made of plant drugs they knew by heart.
He spoke of the systematic thefts of unscrupulous foreigners and how many of the valuable objects of the site had ended up in metropolitan museums in other countries.
He discarded the legend of the sacrifices of maidens gilded with gold, thrown into the cenotes, because the greatest number of victims counted were children.
Chichen Itza is today among the seven new wonders of the world and remained originally populated during three stages ranging from 550 to 1300. The guide told us that, during a visit by Queen Elizabeth of England, in the seventies, Mayan descendants who lived in the surroundings were expelled and could never return.
Even with the tourist hullabaloo and many of the local vendors who emit the roar of the panther through curious ceramic artifacts, the serenity of a magical place, arrested in time, manifests itself in Chichén Itzá.
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