Sunday, November 20, 2011

At last! The Mérida Blog starts; only four weeks late.

Hello all,

Well, after a long dry spell for the blog, and 30 days in and around Mérida,  Yucatán in México, we've charged up to restart the blog of our adventures. We'll continue to supplement our commentary with links for your edification, and we will try to catch up and then post regularly, so if you find this of interest, check in from time to time and feel free to share it with anyone you like. 

Except for half of our checked luggage being sent directly from San Francisco to San Salvador and not catching up to us for a week, the trip down here was uneventful. We love our rented home, which is about a 15-minute walk from the main Plaza, which for some reason that we have not yet determined, is not referred to as the zocalo. We have the great fortune to have Ellyne and Chucho as our one-short-block-away landlords, but we already see them as friends more than "the people from whom we rent." They have provided a huge jumpstart into our appreciation for this city, its culture, and for the practical matters of everyday living here.

A brief history:
The Olmec were the first major Pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco along the Gulf Coast of México including the Yucatán.

The Olmec flourished during Mesoamerica's Formative period, dating roughly from as early as 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE. Pre-Olmec cultures had flourished in the area since about 2500 BCE, but by 1600-1500 BCE Early Olmec culture had emerged. They were the first Mesoamerican civilization and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed. Among other "firsts," the Olmec appeared to practice ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamerican societies. They are also known for their monolithic huge carvings of heads. We saw these on display at the Rufino Tamayo Museum in Oaxaca and also at the exhibit that traveled to the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco earlier this year.

By no later than 500 BC, however, the Maya had established agriculture here and were building monuments and cities. By 250 to 550 CE there were millions of Maya living in the Yucatán peninsula extending south into what is now Guatemala.

The Spanish arrived in the Yucatán in 1511. Bloodshed, slavery, destruction of temples, and broken treaties were the order of the day. The Yucatán still has a wealth of Mayan ruins and spectacular pyramids and temples with beautiful stone ornamentation. Numerous female figurines were found in Maya sites as were mushroom shaped pottery. This area is rich in hallucinogenic mushrooms, which Shamans still use today.

The Maya were accomplished astronomers. They had a very accurate calendar, which started in 3114 BCE and is due to end next year, 2012.  More about that later.

After years of bloodshed, the Spaniards claimed victory, but the fact is that the Maya simply absorbed them and the more modern Maya civilization still thrives today.  This is apparent in the faces we pass on the street, the unusual food here that we have seen nowhere else, and in the Maya language, which is still the first language of the population and still spoken in schools where Spanish is taught as a second language. Most of the town names and, of course, all of the ruins are in Maya.

This sure is a different México.

We'd love to hear from you and you are welcome to post comments on the blog.

Hasta luego.

1 comment:

  1. It's great to see you both looking so happy! Thanks for the history lesson! I'll pass that along to my fifth graders.