Merida MX Series #3… The Mayapán Ruins And Mayan Culture
This is a seven-part story series on the magic of Merida, Mexico rated as one of the best cities to travel to in 2022.
There are over 200 archaeological ruins throughout the Yucatán peninsula. In close proximity to the city of Merida, there are at least four Mayan ruins that make for a great a day trip. The Mayapán ruins are less than an hour from Merida and are pretty awesome. In fact, it was once considered the capital center of Mayan civilization in all of Yucatan. The ruins are both majestic and inspiring, allowing you to visualize what this community looked like in its heyday and experience how Mayan culture persists to this day.
In fact, the Mayapán ruins once represented a community of over 12,000 people contained within 2.5 square miles, surrounded by walls to protect it. I walked and climbed through what is left of a dozen structures that once were homes, and institutions of worship, government and commerce. One can only imagine what living in those times must have been like. The Mayan civilization reigned from 1200 to 1400 AD before they were crushed by the Spaniards, although they (Mayan) continue to this day to leave their imprint on the Yucatán region.
There are guided tours that can take you to the Mayapán archeological zone or you can rent a car and drive to the site. Just make sure that you download the google map as GPS is a bit erratic. Also, remember to search for the Mayapan archaeological zone, as there is also a town by the same name. (Something I realized when the GPS kept telling me to go a different direction from the signage). Once you are there, you pretty much have the freedom to walk the entire area for as long as you like. You can climb several of the temples although some are steep and high but at your own risk. To my surprise, there were several men and women that climbed some of the highest temples. At my age, I try not to do anything that may set me back (or hurt my achy back). Just walking the entire area in the middle of the day in the scorching heat was enough of a risk, although well worth it. It saddened me to see what was left of this civilization and to know of their enslavement. Mayan cities that were near the water were completely dismantled by the Spaniards, which is how Merida came to be.
The ruins, while stunning to see, do not provide a great deal of information on how this civilization once thrived. For that, you need to go to the Museum of Mayan World near Merida which offers a wealth of knowledge and artifacts on how this society flourished and how its people and culture have evolved over the centuries. The Mayans were an ancient civilization ahead of its time with a strong social and political structure that allowed them to create their own systems in math, writing, astronomy, geology and engineering.
Some of this history is disconcerting as you learn how Spaniards sought to destroy their culture, language and beliefs system by enslaving them and forcing them to become Christian (actually not much of a stretch from what the US has done to Native Americans).
The museum offers an overview of how this civilization endured the Spaniards, who were unsuccessful at fully destroying thier culture and belief systems. Today, Mayans represent nearly 6 million (30%) of the Yucatán peninsula and continue to influence the daily lives of all of Mexico. In fact, their language known as Yucate is one of three that is used by the government on all matters of communications. They are also reclaiming aspects of their culture and religious beliefs carried on from generation to generation. You can’t help being inspired by their tenacity and capacity to resist assimilating into a culture different from their heritage.
My photos are of the Mayapán ruins and some artifacts from the Museum of Mayan World. Click here to access photos and don’t forget to click the center of the photos for a full view.
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AUGUST 28, 2022