El Castillo; Kukulcan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico
I remember going to Chichen Itza many years ago with my backpack and wondering where I can leave it to visit the ruins. The ticket office was a small booth in a field and I asked the attendant to keep my backpack till I wander on the grounds. It was nothing else close by, almost like it was when the Mayans left the place more than 1000 years ago. Not anymore. Chichen Itza is now a major tourist spot where buses cough daily hundreds of beach goers from Cancun for a one day cultural immersion among the Maya. A large parking place is right in front of an aggrandized entrance with a wall where the name of the old Mayan town is spelled large. On the entrance plaza, full of souvenir shops, are several guys dressed and painted to resemble old Maya warriors, ready for pictures, in a sort of Times Square Disney characters style but adapted for the local needs. The ruins are all there but are now completely surrounded by metal bars to prohibit the access. The good old days when you could climb on top of Kukulkan Pyramid and watch the entire square at your feet like an old Maya priest are gone. And taking in consideration the size of the crowds stomping the grounds it does not look like a bad idea. I was wondering if all the tourists would climb El Castillo, how many would come tumbling down descending its narrow steps.
Observatory, Chichen Itza, Mexico
I remember trying to find many years ago the Observatory, the famous building that look exactly as one in our days having represented on its cupola the sky as we know it. It was out of the main group of ruins, quite isolated and somehow lost in the jungle. Now the chances to lose yourself in the jungle are slim and you just have to follow the artisans stalls that are completely covering on both sides the entire complex’ alleys like in an gigantic mercado that somehow tries to stay in the shade. However in spite of all crowds tromping around the site remains impressive and hearing again the story of those amazing Maya, incredible astronomers and mathematicians, fighters and worshipers make you wonder how our own civilization would be able to survive the disasters caused by nature but mainly the ones by our own making.
Suytun Cenote, Mexico
Close by is a cenote, a large hole in the ground full of sweet water a prevalent feature in Yucatan and beyond. Being made out of a calcareous base the ground has just about 40 cm of dirt, a thing that made it hard to be cultivated even during the Maya times. Underneath, in the calcareous base are underground rivers that connect the approximate 5000 cenotes in a secret labyrinth of water. This cenote was discovered by accident. Walking his dog on his propriety, a man just happen to see how his dog fell into the earth through a hole and heard a splash. Trying to rescue the poor soul he discovered a large cenote whose ceiling is intact, except the small hole. In time he built around it and transformed it in a bathing place, probably less holy that during the Maya but a dive into it in the middle of a heated Yucatan day is like a blessing from another dimension.