We’ve spent the past few weekends visiting sites around Merida. Here’s a taste of what we’ve seen.
Uxmal is 80 km (you figure that one out) south of Merida. This archeological site is second only to Chichen Itza in size and historical significance. Uxmal (OOSH-mal) means thrice-built. It is estimated this city reached it’s peak of power and population between 800-1000 AD and believed that it was pretty much abandoned by 1200 AD.
There are 30+ ruin sites marked on the map of the Yucatan that are actual archeological sites. There are many more sites that have not been excavated. Meaning, you could spend many days looking at Mayan ruins.
According to our guide, it is thought that Uxmal was abandoned and rebuilt three times due to drought. The Mayan people depended on rain. Whole cities moved when the water source dried up. However, when the rains came and the wells filled, the people returned and rebuilt the city on top of the existing structures. Archeologists have dug down and found entire buildings under existing structures.
It’s pretty awe inspiring to see these sites and to imagine people without the technology we have today building structures of this size and detail.
For those of you who are wondering, there is an effort to counter the belief that Mayans offered human sacrifices. The argument is that if this were true, archeologists would have found thousands of human remains. Which hasn’t occurred. Guides now talk about the royal class sacrificing blood by means of tongue piercing as well as piercing of other body parts (parts that would really hurt). There is evidence of this in the art work and other archeological finds.
We first saw Uxmal at night for the light show. With the lights and music, a story was told about the Mayan people in the voices of men, women and children, in Spanish. We could sort of follow along. It was beautiful.
Queen Elizabeth was in attendance at the inauguration of the light show here at Uxmal. It rained, hard, and everyone moved for cover but the queen remained queenly in her chair. I’m sure she had someone holding umbrellas over her head.
We spent the night in the small town of St Elena. We had a great little pool to cool off after the hot sun at the ruins. The museum in the church boasts mummies from a local ruin site. It was closed when we were there so we can’t verify the claim. As we walked through town one night, a young adult man came after us on his bike to give us a gourd he had painted. It was very sweet.
On the way to and from Uxmal we stopped at a Chocolate Museum, in the middle of nowhere. It was actually a cacao farm where the owner had set up a very nice outdoor museum. We walked on paths through local vegetation that was marked with names, cacao plants and flowers. In between there were Mayan style huts with displays about how cacao is grown and turned into chocolate in the Mayan days and now. It was quite interesting and very well done.
As I mentioned in former posts, there are many old haciendas around here. We stopped at Hacienda Ochil, that had been restored, for lunch on the way to Uxmal. On the way home we stopped at another, Yaxcopoil, that had been kept more in the way it would have been in it’s hayday. Except, it hasn’t been kept up as if it were still in use.
First, sites from Hacienda Ochil.
And, sites from Hacienda Yaxcopoil.
Last but not least, the good about Merida