Our last shore excursion was a full day trip to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Izta on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. I’d been interested in the Mayans since sixth grade when my best friend, Carol, and I, began reading about them and the Egyptians. She made it to Egypt; I made it to Mexico.
We spent more time traveling from the ship to Chichen Itza than we spent at the actual site, but it was still worth it for an introductory view into this culture. Our main guide was of Mayan descent himself, and he was proud to share his wealth of information about his ancestors.
For their time (pre-Columbus) in history, the Mayans had an advanced civilization steeped in astrology, mathematics, and religion. They identified five of the planets we know today; they created accurate calendars before the Gregorian calendar was generally adopted; and they believed in many Gods and in reincarnation. They also believed in human sacrifice, which prompted one woman in our group to exclaim, “They were a horrible people.”
Yet, they built what you could call a city today, complete with several temples to their Gods, an arena for their favorite games, and platforms to celebrate both dancing and death. They wrote books, and three have survived to this day.
The Mayans were ultimately obliterated by the Spaniards in the fifteenth century, but the ruins they left behind are testimony to the sophistication of their culture, human sacrifice notwithstanding. If I ever go back, it will be to spend at least a couple days instead of a couple hours.