Buried Mirror

Mesoamerica and the Maya World

About Buried Mirror

The phrase "the buried mirror" was used by Carlos Fuentes as the title of a book and PBS series devoted to the Hispanic world. Carlos was inspired by Totonac mirrors found in tombs in his native state of Veracruz. Some believe that such mirrors may have been intended as aids to the dead for navigating the underworld. Across the Atlantic, Carlos also found inspiration in a book entitled L'espil soterat (The Buried Mirror) by the Catalan poet Ramón Xirau, and in the figure of the Knight of the Mirrors, who attempts to cure Quixote of madness.

The buried mirror is a powerful image, but I do not use in the same sense as does the Fuentes book. Though I will occasionally go farther afield, particularly to other parts of Latin America, this site's scope is mainly focused on the region of Mexico and Central America, and in particular to the Maya world, from the Yucatan peninsula through Guatemala and into Honduras. I have always been intrigued by the way the jungle reclaims the ancient monuments of the once-powerful. Their world is a mirror to the modern Maya world, and it is buried beneath the weight of time. I am interested in both the ancient Maya civilization and the living Maya culture.

Ancient Mesoamericans used stone mirrors as personal adornments and as aids to divination. Mirrors were related to water, which is also reflective, and in the northern lowlands, where the main source of water is caves (cenotes), they are related to the underworld.

The ancient Maya created works of great beauty but also indulged in acts of barbarity and horror. Are they not a mirror to our modern world?

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