mesoamerica and the maya world

Month: June 2007

The Railroad All-Stars

The clip below is a trailer for Estrellas de la LĂ­nea, a film about sex workers in Guatemala City who organized themselves as a football (soccer) team. Guatemala City has become a nightmarish places, and it goes without saying that these women’s lives must be very difficult.

The full story is at The Global Game.

Four Keys to Haggling

street vendors, antigua

People from cultures where haggling is not a regular practice are sometimes uncomfortable in dealing with market and street vendors. They may even accept the offer of unknown locals to help them get a good price — in which case they will end up paying not only the vendor but also the helper.

For residents of the Mesoamerican region, haggling is a natural and expected part of most transactions. Archaeologists have established that a lively trade network permeated ancient Mesoamerica, and trade is still a large part of everyday life in the region. More than just a method of marketplace price regulation, it is also a social activity. A purchase without conversation is an act of rudeness.

Haggling is not something to stress over — in fact, it should be fun, at its best full of wit and good humor. Following are four keys to successful haggling.

Maya Symbology: Bat

copan bat sculpture

The bat’s association with night and with caves was significant to the ancient Maya, who equated nightime with death and viewed caves as the gateway to the underworld, called Xibalba (literally, “place of fright”). At nightfall the sun appears to pass through the earth to enter the underworld.

In the northern Maya region, life-sustaining water is held in underground sinkholes, or cenotes, which are associated with Chak, the rain god. Thus from death comes life, a pattern seen again in the figure of the Maize God, who emerges from the underworld, through the crust of the earth, bringing forth the staple foodstuff of the Maya (as the rising sun heralds the daytime world).

Death and life also come together in the act of sacrifice, and a people as obsessed with bloodletting as the Maya could hardly fail to notice the vampire bat’s habit of making an incision in the skin of its victim and lapping up its blood. This is probably why some representations of the bat depict flint knives on the snout or wings.

Sometimes the bat is shown together with a severed human head, and in the Popul Vuh the hero twin Hunahpu’s head is cut off by the Cama Zotz, or “death bat.” So decapitation and sacrifice are among the qualities most strongly associated with bats by the ancient Maya.

The image above is a bat carving from the sourthern Maya site of Copan. Maya cities were identified with totem animals, and Copan’s was the bat, which was often displayed on the city’s emblem glyphs. This large carving, now in the Sculpture Musem at Copan, was probably a roof ornament.

LINK: Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya

Wedding Hotels in the Maya Riviera

I wonder what it would be like to get married in one of these places.

wedding hotels on maya riviera


Mayan Theater, Los Angeles

mayan theater, los angeles facade

Posting is a little light while I’m on the road. Meanwhile, for your amusement, here are a couple of images of the facade of the Mayan Theater (1040 Hill Street, near 11th Street) in Los Angeles.

The decorative motifs on the facade of the theater were inspired by elements of the late Maya sites of Uxmal and Chichen Itza in the Yucatan. The theater opened in 1927 with a performance of George Gershwin’s Oh, Kay! Over the years the neighborhood declined, and it became a site for porno films. I think now it’s a concert venue.

I went to a party at the Mayan Theater once. Booker T and the MGs Junior Walker and the All Stars performed.

mayan theater, los angeles -- detail of facade

Song clips from the “golden age” of Mexican popular music

Xeni Jardin has posted a great list of classic Mexican tunes (“YouTubes to Make Your Mexican Grandmother Cry“). Well worth checking out.


Archaeologists have discovered traces of an ancient Maya city in a papaya plantation in the Corozal area of Belize. The find includes three Mayan foundations tentatively dated to the early classic period. Skeletons of a man and a woman were also uncovered, although they seem to be from a little earlier. According to the Belize Reporter, “It is believed that Aventura had seven to ten thousand inhabitants and encompassed an area of two to three square miles.” The Reporter article also alludes to a temple and some “ornate pottery.” I suppose in time exactly what the site comprises will become clearer.

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