5 FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT Mexico
BEST HOTEL DEALS
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MAYAN CULTURE
1. Maya Calendar
Two calendars work simultaneously in the Maya system:
- the Haab, or civil calendar of 365 days divided into 18 months of 20 days each
- the Tzolkin, or the sacred calendar, of 260 days divided into three groups of months of 20 days.
The Haab and the Tzolkin work together to create what is known as the Calendar Round but cannot account for dates farther in the future than 52 days. For longer calculations, the Maya created the Long Count Calendar that begins on 11 August 3 114 BC, and stops on 21 December 2012 CE. This has attracted international attention in recent years regarding the end of the world on 21 December 2012 CE. In reality, it was just the passing into the next cycle (known as a Baktun) from 21 December 2012 CE onward.
2. BUILDERS OF 60 CITIES
The Maya people had many talents, but their most impressive talent was building. It is said that they had around 60 cities and they built them all. They built so many things such as palaces, pyramids, ceremonial structures, and temple observatories. This was impressive as they didn’t have metal tools.
A Maya city consisted of a series of stepped platforms topped by masonry structures, ranging from great temple pyramids and palaces to individual house mounds. Maya architecture is characterized by a sophisticated sense of decoration and art.
In the modern age, the Maya still farm the same lands and travel the same rivers as their ancestors did from the north in the Yucatan down to Honduras. There are over six million people that claim to be the direct descendants of the Maya population, carrying on the traditions of their ancestors. It might be true, I won’t argue with that, just be careful when you are in Mexico as they tend to sell you activities with true shamans, but what I experienced was only some good actors playing with shamanic traditions. Nothing was true.
3. THE WINNER LOSES ALL
I know the Maya people would disagree with ABBA’s song ‘The winner takes it all’ as in their culture, the winner losses all, including their life. They had their own Gladiator Entertainment, a sort of game ball, using a rubber ball. They played it inside the walls of Chichen Itza and the winner, the one that reached the wall on the other part of the field was the winner and as a prize, he was sacrificed. For them, it was a virtue to be the winner of this ball game and be sacrificed, not like for the Gladiators, that were slaves, prisoners condemned to death, or former slaves given a chance to buy or win their freedom.
The guide in Chichen Itza told us that the priests were the ones organizing these events, and mainly because the population started to increase so much, they were starting to starve. Therefore, human sacrifices as a religious form, were more than necessary to control the level of the population.
4. THE MAYA BUILT Chichen Itza
One Of The Seven Wonders Of The World
Chichen Itza is one of the main archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico. It is a sacred city and a Mayan pilgrimage center, founded by the Itza, the so-called water sorcerers, in the 5th century AD.
The Mayans are one of the most fascinating and enigmatic cultures of Humanity. Although the habitat in which they settled was not very favorable for urban development, they achieved great splendor, like Chichen Itza, whose buildings and sculptures are reminiscent of the city of Tula, in central Mexico, 1 500 km away. The name Chichén means “mouth of the well” and Itzá refers to those who founded it, the Itzáes “water witches”, around the year 435.
Nowadays, Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site -one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and the second most visited Mexican archeological site. It remains open to the public 365 days a year, with 8 000 visitors per day in the high season. Before you were allowed to climb the stairs of the site, but now it is prohibited to preserve it.
I recommend getting a guide when you visit Chichen Itza, you will discover lots of interesting stuff about the Mayan culture and the way the Chichen Itza was built.
5. AROUND 6 000 – 7 000 CENOTES IN MEXICO
Did you know that there are more than 6 000 cenotes in Mexico? Some say there are more than 7 000, but what is for sure is that over 2 200 cenotes have been officially listed. Most of them are located on the Yucatan Peninsula, close to Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Valladolíd, and at least 900 are considered to be a part of the ‘Ring of Cenotes’ located near the city of Merida. But what are these cenotes and why are they so famous?
Cenotes were quite significant to the Mayan people, being their main water source. They were also considered to be the entrance to the Xibalba, translated to the underworld, and a place where the Mayan gods would visit, especially Chaac, the Mayan god of rain, lightning, and thunder. Cenotes were so important that most temples and villages were built close by or on top of them, such as Chichen Itza or even Mexico City.
The Maya were conducting sacred rituals on these cenotes with human sacrifices while requesting rain. Also, the dead were thrown into the cenotes to reach Tamoanchan (Heaven) and wait for the next cycle of life. Maya thought each person has 9 cycles of life and they calculate even today your cycle number. Mine, according to them, is the 5th one. What is weird is that I’ve always used the number 5 as my lucky number, even though I am born on 02/02. But I never use 2 as my number.
What strikes me the most is that they were such an advanced civilization, but they kept deforesting the selva (the jungle) and throwing the dead bodies in the cenotes, their main water source.
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Tell me in the comments section if you liked (or not) these 5 Maya facts. Were you aware of them? Do you know other interesting facts about the Mayan culture?
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