Turning Archive 2006

I'm back from Chechen-Itza (long, pics)

Ron in Drums PA
>We're back form Mexico and we return with a new perspective of Mexico and her people. If you leave the resort areas and are far enough away from the US/Mexican boarder, you will find Mexico a fascinating experience. Its people are open, friendly, polite and love a good joke, even if it’s on them.

The ancient Mayan city of Chechen-Itza is located in the Yucatan and is earliest city that was built in North America. Many parts of the city are the in jungle, which have yet to be discovered. Experts guess that this city may cover up to 100 square miles. When we visited this site, the temperature was around 100 degrees with the humidity about the same. Just standing was enough to make one perspire. We are allowed to walk into the large pyramid, which was built over an older, smaller pyramid. But inside was a disappointment because it was like the hottest sauna imaginable. I really would have loved to explore inside but the heat and humidity was truly unbearable.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit this city was because I knew we are allowed to climb to the top of the big pyramid, which is a daunting task to say the least. The steps are very narrow, about 4" deep and very steep. Sadly, there where a few accidents in June and one person died because of a fall. The authorities decided to no longer allow anyone to climb the pyramid. Another disappointment, but maybe for the best.

At first glance, it is easy to assume the people of the Yucatan are poor and live in poverty, and compared to our standards they are. But it is not the way many feel. We noticed many buildings I couldn’t even call a shack, they where more like hovels. The walls where sticks with gapping holes for doorways and a thatched roof. I had the opportunity to walk into one of these and was surprised at how cool it was inside. I learned that this style of building is the same style that the Mayians have used for 1000s of years and is still common in the Yucatan. BTW, all children now in school are being taught the Mayian language.

I had the chance to talk to one man who lived in such a building and was very proud of his home. He spoke with pride of where he lived. I learned that his land was part of a ranch and he was given title to a section in return for keeping the ranch secure. He was quite proud of receiving the kingly sum of 60 pesos a day ($6 US) for his work. He divided his land in three parts by using low walls, which he built from stone. One part is the home in which his family slept in. One is where he kept his goats, chickens, turkeys and few rabbits. His land was too rocky for a garden so he would trade meat, eggs and milk for vegetables. The last section, which faced the road was where his wife sold her wares to passing tourists. I asked him if he would like to live in the city and he told me that the city is no place to raise his children and that where he lived is a much better place. Funny, this is exactly how I fell about where I live.

We visited a city called Playa de Carma. Even considering how adventurous I am, I would not go into the city at night. There are many small shops and street vendors hawking their wares. Everything from jewelry to clothing to time shares to the latest scheme on how to invest your money. A couple of times I relied on their sense of humor to make our get away. I put a surprised look on my face and exclaimed “Mirada! Mirada!” (Look! Look!) And pointed behind them and above their heads. When they turned away to see what was going on, we were able to slip away. I would look back, and see the vendors next to them laughing along with the person I played this little trick on. I always waved and they would always wave back with a big smile.

Where we last stayed was close to a two hour drive to the airport and I had a chance to talk to the driver who lived all his life in Cancun. He was about 28, married and has two children. The youngest is 18 months and the oldest will be four. I learned that when children reach 4 it is common for them to start kindergarten. He sounded just like me when I heard him say that the public schools are not doing their jobs and his children can get a better education in a private school.

He told me how different it is now that Cancun has become a tourist area. When he was a child and going to school he would save a few crumbs from his fatias and sneak out of class to feed the monkeys. He said there are no more monkeys in Cancun except in cages. He spoke with a longing in his voice that Cancun was just a small fishing village when he was a child and misses the old ways. But he was glad of the economic opportunities that tourists bring with them. He was very proud when he told me purchased a house in a good section of the city. We laughed when he told me he tried to build a table for his yard and his daughter now uses it as a rocking horse. He earns $8 a day, receives about $100 a week in tips and pays $200 a month for 10 years to cover the mortgage, insurance and taxes. He considers himself wealthy, and hopes to send his children to a private school, which will cost him $70 a month when both his children are in school. He hopes his wife doesn’t have to work and I told him he should sell rocking horses as a side business. He laughed so hard tears came to his eyes when he said nobody would buy them for firewood.

Thanks for reading my little story, and if you got this far, hopefully I didn’t bore you to much.

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