buried mirror: latest reflections

mesoamerica and the maya world

mole-label

Mexico returns to its roots

Over at Frisco Vista I recently posted about my new bitters, called Old Tom’s Maximon Mole Bitters. They will definitely spice up a cocktail. So what better time to have another listen to Lila Downs’s great “Cumbia del Mole”?

Actually, I had planned to insert a video by Natalia Lafourcade, but I didn’t find one I liked enough. The impulse derived from this article in the New York Times, which says that Mexico is experiencing a new back-to-roots movement. (I think Ms. Downs was already there). The article begins:

When the pop singer Natalia Lafourcade stepped onto the stage of National Auditorium here last fall, it was a high point of a career that began more than 10 years ago, when she performed in grunge-inspired attire.

But for this concert, Ms. Lafourcade eschewed the ripped jeans. Instead, she wore pants from a Mexican designer and a crown of red roses, paying homage to the artist Frida Kahlo. Halfway through the show, she was joined by a band playing jarocho, a style of folk music from Veracruz.

“It was time to connect back with my origins,” said Ms. Lafourcade, 32. “I wanted to infuse my music with Mexican character.”

In a country that is struggling with pressing social, economic and political challenges yet possesses a rich cultural heritage, many emerging artists and trendsetters no longer feel compelled to look abroad for inspiration.

 

puerto-morelos

Travel in Mesoamerica and the Maya World

Lunch with Carol at Puerto Morelos

Lunch with Carol at Puerto Morelos.

This post will be sticky in the “travel” category. To start with, here are some links that might be helpful. For now, many of these utilize the old Buried Mirror html, which is less responsive for mobile than the current look. Some are blog posts that may also appear below. These issues will get addressed.

Travel in the Maya World

Overview of Mesoamerica and the Maya Region

Maya Sites

Chichen Itzen

The Observatory

Kabah

The arch of the sacbe
The western group

Uxmal

The House of the Turtles
The Great Pyramid
Borges at Uxmal

Copan

Map of Copan
The East Court
Stela B

Tulum

and Hurricane Dean

Some Places

Felipe Carrillo Puerto
Hot Waterfall
Casita in Mixco, Guatemala
Antigua Walls
Volcanos of Lake Atitlan
Maximon
Photography by Ivan Castro
The Talking Cross
Puerto Morelos,
on the Maya Riviera

Shopping

Four Keys to Haggling

Restaurants and Cafes

Antigua Guatemala, Bagel Barn

copan

History of Mesoamerica and the Maya World

Ancient handprint at the ruins of Kabah

Ancient handprint at the ruins of Kabah.

This post will be sticky in the “history” category. To start with, here are some links that might be helpful. For now, many of these utilize the old Buried Mirror html, which is less responsive for mobile than the current look. Some are blog posts that may also appear below. These issues will get addressed.

The image is a photo I took in February 2007 of a red handprint on the interior of the arch at the Maya ruins of Kabah in the Puuc region of the Yucatan. Most Maya structures were brightly painted, and this handprint was left in red paint. The handprint was originally obscured by a stucco surface, which has peeled away. Similar handprints in blue paint can be seen at Uxmal, about 20 kilometers northeast. (See more below.)

Maya History

Maya Timeline
Proto-Mayan and the Origins of the Maya
About Yik’in Chan K’awiil, 27th ruler of Tikal
The Great Collapse: The Decline and Fall of Ancient Maya Civilization
The Cult of the Talking Cross, and the Caste War of the Yucatan
Old School Mayanists:
Sylvanus G. Morley and J. Eric S. Thompson

Recent Discoveries

Ancient Tomb Discovered at Copan (May 17, 2007)
Ancient Offerings found at Nueva de Toluca (May 25, 2007)

Modern History

Revolution in Guatemala, 1944

Popularization

Gibson Girl

drinking-vessel

Culture of Mesoamerica and the Maya World

Festival, Chichicastenango, Guatemala, 1975

Festival, Chichicastenango, Guatemala, 1975.

This post will be sticky in the “culture” category. To start with, here are some links that might be helpful. For now, many of these utilize the old Buried Mirror html, which is less responsive for mobile than the current look. Some are blog posts that may also appear below. These issues will get addressed.

Mayan Languages and Cultures

The Mesoamerican context
New system of orthography
Classification of Mayan languages and cultures
More on Mayan languages, Proto-Mayan, and the origins of the Maya
The Garifuna Journey

Maya Cosmology and Belief

Principal gods
Maya Calendar(s)
Maya numeric notation
Maximon, an auspicioius folk deity
Yaxche, the Maya Tree of Life

Daily Life

Manioc

Maya Art and Architecture

The Maya and the Golden Section
The Fountain at La Merced, La Antigua, Guatemala
Door knockers at La Antigua, Guatemala

Maya Symbology

Parrot
Turtle

The Contemporary Maya World

Penguins in Bed
Zacatenango

Festivals and Celebrations

Palos Voladores
Kites at Santiago Sacatepequez

Politics

The Art of Political Murder
Rigoberto Menchu in Poptun

Ometochtli

Mesoamerican animal husbandry

Illustration of stone rabbit sculpture from the Oztoyahualco 15B apartment compound. (Manzanilla ed.1993; drawing by Fernando Botas). http://bit.ly/2bEl0bZ . Via http://bit.ly/2bDOKEN

Illustration of stone rabbit sculpture from the Oztoyahualco 15B apartment compound.
(Manzanilla ed.1993; drawing by Fernando Botas). http://bit.ly/2bEl0bZ. Via http://bit.ly/2bDOKEN.

A team of researchers led by Andrew Somerville of the University of California San Diego, as reported by Cynthia Graber in Scientific American, have produced new evidence that ancient Mesoamericans raised animals for food. Traditionally it was felt that they did not engage in such acitivites, evidentally because researchers were looking for large food animals such as the cattle and pigs introduced by Westerners.

Archaeologists had already noted ample rabbit remains at Teotihuacan, near modern Mexico City. The current research team, however, noted a few curious things:

  • Carbon isotope analysis provides evidence of the rabbit’s corn and cactus fruit diet, which is different from that of wild rabbits and suggests that they were raised domestically.
  • Ruins of what appears to be a dedicated rabbit pen have been discovered.
  • A rabbit statue was found at the site of the pen.

According to Mexconnect, domesticated rabbits are still a common feature of central Mexican cuisine:

The rabbit, still hunted but more often raised domestically, is popular in Central Mexico, where it is most often eaten adobado – marinated in a chile and spice rub – or estofado – stewed. The latter is a more suitable way of cooking larger rabbit, from three-and-a-half to four pounds. Smaller ones generally run from one-and-a-half to two pounds and can be prepared using shorter cooking methods such as frying or grilling. In either case, even domestically raised rabbit benefits a great deal from being marinated first.

Buen provecho!

Child labor in Guatemala

Young worker in market in Antigua, Guatemala. Photo copyright Rudy Giron, all rights reserved.

Young worker in market in Antigua, Guatemala. Photo copyright Rudy Giron, all rights reserved.

It’s been four years since I’ve posted on this site. During those years I was focused on print projects (I published three books), but now I am renewing my web activities. When I thought of reviving this site, the first place I looked was Rudy Giron’s blog, Antigua Daily Photo, which is the source of this photo. I wanted to begin with Rudy, because he is a knowledgable resident of Antigua and an indefatigable blogger, as well as a talented photographer. Rudy’s blog now says that unauthorized use of his material is prohibited except for links and excerpts, so I am requesting permission. Please do not use his materials without authorization.

One of the most troubling features of Guatemala and the Maya world in general is that it is so damned photogenic even when the situations the photography documents are problematic. I’ve seen this so many times. Here we have a beautiful photo of a young girl in a market, and the picturesque quality, if we’re not careful, can blind us to the harsh realities of child labor.

Rudy writes on his blog, “It breaks my heart to see SO MANY children working instead of being in school like they should if the laws were enforced in Guatemala.” He is quite right, and I urge you to visit his blog to learn more about Antigua, Guatemala, from an insider’s perspective.

 

Maya quiz

national geographic quiz on maya

National Geographic has an interesting quiz on the Maya. It’s fairly challenging — anyway, I got two answers wrong.

Howlers

I posted this over at rightreading, but I’ll repeat it here, since it pertains to Mesoamerica:


llama

When you attempt something ambitious you’re bound to make some mistakes along the way. I’m sure the book I’m working on will have its fair share (recently I realized I had confused the Mughal painters Bichitr and Bishandas). But sometimes a mistake is so stunning that it’s hard to recover from.

I was finding Charles H. Parker’s Global Interactions in the Early Modern Age, 1400-1800 generally interesting and credible. Then I came upon this sentence:

The lack of any indigenous pack animals, except for the llama, and the absence of a wheel meant that humans formed the primary source of portage in Mesoamerican trade.

Probably another reason Mesoamericans depended on humans for portage is that the nearest of their “indigenous” llamas was nearly 2000 miles away in the South American Andes.

This reminds me of a visit to the market in Chichicastenango in Guatemala a few decades ago. The blanket vendors all touted their blankets as pura lana, which means “pure wool.” At the market I met a foolish young Spanish-challenged gringo carrying a blanket he had bought. He’d paid a high price, but it was worth it, he assured me, proudly proclaiming it “pure llama!”

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Image from felipe ascencio‘s photostream.

drinking-vessel

Drinking vessel, 600-800 CE

lacma drinking vessel from campeche area

The portion of this painted ceramic drinking vessel that is shown in this image shows a well-turned- jaguarsporting a knotted scarf and a deer antler. He is a wayob’ — the companion spirit of a Maya ruler. Other wayob’ shown on the other sides of this vessel are a toad and a serpent (the young man at right is emerging from the serpent’s jaws). The vessel, from the southern Campeche area, is in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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Drinking Vessel, 600-800 CE. Mexico, Southern Campeche. Ceramic with cream, red, and black slip, H: 5 3/8 in., D: 5 1/8 in. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of the 2006 Collectors Committee.

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yellow

Photo Wednesday: Water delivery

water delivery vehicle in yucatan

This photo from Izamal in the Mexican Yucatan comes from larry&flo’s photostream.

Photo Wednesday: The Stone of the Sun

This image of the Aztec calendar wheel — also known as the Stone of the Sun — that was excavated in the Zócalo (main square) in Mexico City comes from Drogdon’s photostream. The basalt stone is about twelve feet in diameter. It is now in the collections of the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

It’s possible that this is a photo of a replica, as it doesn’t look sufficiently aged to be the real stone. (If anyone knows, please leave a comment.)

Maya foods that changed world cuisine

Christine Delsol identifies ten revolutionary Maya foods.

  1. Chocolate
  2. Vanilla
  3. Corn
  4. Chiles
  5. Tomatoes
  6. Black beans
  7. Avocado
  8. Sweet potato
  9. Squash
  10. Papaya

Pretty good list. Read what she has to say here.

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image from a Chiapas market from 10b travelling’s photostream

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Friday roundup

Incidents of virtual travel in Mesoamerica.

Photo Wednesday: Hanging plants

This photo of hanging plants at the Hotel Lunata in Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera comes from theilr’s photostream

Friday roundup

Incidents of virtual travel in Mesoamerica and the Maya world

Photo Wednesday: Colorful hammocks

I hope to return to more regular blogging soon. We might as well start with our regular feature, Photo Wednesday. This image of hammocks against a bright wall comes from CasaDeQueso’s photostream. CasaDeQueso says that the hammocks were for sale at a roadside souvenir shop, near Coba, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Photo Wednesday: Beach near Tulum

This photo of the Caribbean near the ancient Maya city of Tulum is from mdanys’ photostream.

Friday roundup

Incidents of virtual travel in Mesoamerica and the Maya world.

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Guatemala in danger

In an opinion piece in the Global Post, Mark Schneider argues that the Guatemalan state is in danger of collapsing. This is how he begins:

While U.S. attention has rightly been focused on Mexico’s drug wars – with high-profile trips by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before this weekend’s Summit of the Americas – Mexico’s southern neighbor is in far more serious danger of becoming a failed state. Reeling from gangs, corruption and pervasive poverty, Guatemala now faces well-armed, well-financed drug cartels.

Read More

A new discovery at El Mirador


A pair of monumental (26-foot) stucco panels have been discovered at the important classic Maya site of El Mirador in the Peten by a team led by Richard Hansen of Idaho State University. The figures in the panels appear to represent the heros twins of the Maya creation myth.

This is clearly an important find. The panels can be dated to the Late Preclassic period, from about 300 BCE to a little after the beginning of the common era.

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Video via MSNBC

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Happy Haab 5125

chajchaay, a maya ball game

Yesterday, Sunday Feb. 22, marked the first day of the Maya year 5125, according to the Maya solar calendar, or haab. The haab is also known as the “vague year,” because it did not adjust for the extra quarter day in the solar year. The Maya were, however, perfectly aware of the discrepancy, which they had calculated more precisely than was the case in Europe’s Julian calendar. Because they had several calendar systems it was not important to them that the haab include such an adjustment.

According to Prensa Latina, over the past couple of decades traditional Maya calendrical celebrations, which had been forced underground by centuries of repression, have become less secretive. The photo (by AFP via Straits Times (of all places, shows  men playing chajchaay, which is described in the caption as “an ancient Maya ball game,” in Guatemala City. It is questionable whether this game has any connection to those played on the ball courts of the classic Maya. Below is one of several YouTube videos showing the game.

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Friday roundup

Incidents of travel in virtual Mesoamerica

Landslide death toll rises

The number of dead from a landslide near Aquil Grande in Alta Verapaz in Guatemala has risen to 37; that number does not count an equal number of missing persons. A previous slide had hit the same road on December 14, killing two people, and barricades were put up to keep people away from the danger area. Many of the dead in the second slide were coffee plantations workers who simply went around the roadblocks.

Read More

Photo Wednesday: Furniture delivery

antigua, guatemala, street scene

This photo of a furniture deliveryman on the streets of Antigua, Guatemala, comes from Michael R. Swigart’s photostream.

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Maya playing cards

Not cards of the ancient or even modern Maya, but playing cards produced by — of all people — the Soviet state. Among the few sets of cards it produced (the state was the sole supplier of playing cards) was this handsome set.

maya playing card from soviet era

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More examples at English Russia.

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Friday roundup

Virtual travels in Mesoamerica

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Maya multiplication

I don’t know anything about this. Is it really Maya?

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Viene el dia de los muertos

tom and friend at day of the dead

With Day of the Dead around the corner, Rafael Jesús González’s blog is well worth visiting. He traces the celebration from its ancient roots through the colonial period and into the present.

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Above: Me (right) and a friend, at the 2006 Dia de los Muertos celebration at the Oakland Museum. Tee shirt image by José Guadalupe Posada, photo by Anne Christensen.

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Turtles at Monterrico

While we’re on the subject of sea turtles, here’s a photo of baby turtles at Monterrico, on Guatemala’s Pacific coast, from guillermogg’s photostream.

baby sea turtles at monterrico on guatemala's pacific coast

By the way, this image is a good example of my technique for correcting color cast. I think it’s fair to say the original was a little blue:

sea turtles at monterrico on guatemala's pacific coast: unedited image

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Sea turtle project at La Barrona Hatchery, Guatemala

A behind the scenes look at volunteer-driven sea turtle conservation at the La Barrona in Guatemala.

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