mesoamerica and the maya world

Month: December 2007

Antigua elves bring seasons tidings

christmas wishes from antigua, guatemala

Friday Roundup

Sifting through a week of digging the internet

San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Guatemala

 san antonio aguas calientes, guatemala

This photo was taken a long time ago in Aguas Calientes, near La Antigua, Guatemala. The town is known for its beautiful textiles. Back in the day it was a quiet and tranquil place. I wonder if it has changed much.

Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan

incidents of travel in central america, chiapas, and yucatan by stephens and catherwood

This book, one of the classics of travel writing, is now available online via Google Book Search. It’s a funky scan, but at least it’s not an appalling abridged edition like one I saw published a few years ago.

The image is the original 1842 edition, from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Maximon masks


El Curandero Gallery, located in La Antigua, Guatemala, looks like a good source for Guatemalan masks, wooden figures, slingshots, ceramics, paintings, and textiles. Among their current listings are these two Maximon masks. The one on the left dates from the 1950s and the other from the 1940s.

Maximon is an auspicious folk deity best known from his cult at Santiago Atitlan. He apparently blends aspects of the Christian Saint Simon with a Mayan god, perhaps Maam, an underworld god. I photographed a Maximon altar in Antigua a few years ago, and posted information about Maximon on that page.

Aztec tomb discovered

Using radar equipment, archaeologists have located the tomb of the Aztec ruler Ahuizotl 15 feet below a ceremonial center in the heart of Mexico City. The tomb is large, consisting of several chambers.

Ahuizotl was the uncle of Moctezuma, who led the Aztec emperor at the time of the conquest by Hernán Cortés. He was cremated in 1502 according to a large monolith that was recently discovered, prompting the search for his tomb. From an article about plans to excavate the tomb:

Leonardo López Luján, the lead archaeologist, told Associated Press that his team hoped to be inside the chambers by October, staring at the ashes of Ahuizotl, as well as offerings befitting his status as the last Aztec ruler to die in power.

The team was moving slowly because the entrance is flooded and filled with rocks, forcing the need for pumps to keep the water level down as archaeologists excavate while hanging from slings, he said. He said the conditions may have helped preserve the tomb’s contents.

GroundReport | Archaeologists in Mexico City Find First Tomb of Aztec Ruler

Friday Roundup

Sifting through a week of digging the internet

Gráficas Políticas: Mexican Prints, 1900—1950

what may happen by leopoldo mendezAn exhibition of Mexican prints is showing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, through January 13. The following copy is from the museum’s website:

The artists included range from José Guadalupe Posada, influential figure in modern Mexican printmaking, to Leopoldo Méndez, Pablo O´Higgins, and Alfredo Zalce, all members of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (Popular Graphic Art Workshop or T.G.P.). Together, these artists documented the climate of this period, which saw the Mexican Revolution of 1910, World War I, and World War II.

The T.G.P. had a particularly significant impact on the lives of Mexican citizens and, thus, attracted politically engaged artists from around the world, including Max Kahn and Eleanor Coen from Chicago. Kahn and Coen amassed the works seen here while collaborating with the T.G.P. in Mexico during the 1940s. In 2006, Mr. Frank Ribelin acquired the prints and generously donated them to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Shown is What May Happen (Lo que puede venir), 1945, by Leopoldo Méndez
The MFAH, gift of Frank Ribelin.

First Tortilla

the first tortilla by rudolfo analya

The First Tortilla, a children’s book by Rudolfo Anaya (University of New Mexico Press, 2007) has received the New Mexico Library Association and the New Mexico International Reading Association’s Land of Enchantment Book Award. The book is the story of a Mexican girl who saves her village by making the first tortilla with the help of the Mountain Spirit. Amy Cordova is the illustrator.



Around this time of year we start to see a lot of poinsettias. The plant is native to western Mexico and Guatemala. For the Aztecs the poinsettia (which they called cuetlaxochitl) was a symbol of purity (rather like the lotus in East Asia). I expect the red color would suggest blood to most ancient Mesoamerican cultures. A reddish-purple dye was made from the plant’s bracts, and its sap was used to treat fevers.

The plant is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 1825 to 1829. He sent some speciments to Robert Carr at the Bartram Nursery, who introduced the plant into wider cultivation.

LINK: How pointsettias became popular
Image from the U.S. Agricultural Research Service

Francis Ford Coppola’s hotels in Belize and Guatemala

 blancaneaux lodge, belize

Francis Ford Coppola, inspired by his experience filming Apocalypse Now in the Philippines, decided to search for a “jungle paradise” closer to his northern California home. He ended up buying property in Belize and Guatemala, and now run three hotels there.

  • Blancaneaux Lodge in the Maya Mountains of Belize
  • Turtle Inn on the southern Belize coast
  • La Lancha in Gautemala near Tikal

He writes about his experience in an article in the Independent. An excerpt:

When I visit the resorts, I cast a critical eye. What needs to be added, how is the food and so on. We grow all our fruits and vegetables in our own organic garden, so we can guarantee the quality. We raise our own chickens, and local fishermen bring their catch to the chef. I have a great deal of input with the menus. For La Lancha, we wanted to serve Guatemalan fare using staples such as tamales, beans, chillies, plantains and fresh vegetables. At Turtle Inn, the menu is based on the sea; we serve river lobster or a conch cooked on the beach. And, at Blancaneaux Lodge, it’s Belizean dishes on the menu – rice, beans, chicken and fresh fish, including white fish pickled in lime juice. We also have a wood-burning pizza oven plus espresso machine and coffee roaster imported from Italy.

When I originally discovered Blancaneaux Lodge, I’d been looking for some kind of tropical Utopia and I immediately knew that this was the hideaway I had been looking for. Even now, once I’ve been there a couple of days, the laptop comes out and I write – after all, that’s why I bought the first resort in the first place.

Image from the Blancaneaux Lodge website (slightly modified).

Friday Roundup

Sifting through a week of digging the internet

Fuego volcano eruption

Fuego volcano, near Antigua, Guatemal, erupted in November. Inner Diablog posted a photo by Aldo Bonilla, or you can follow some of these google image results (click screenshot).

fuego volcano eruption

Museums in Merida

macay museum, merida, yucatan, mexico

Working Gringos has put together the best list of museums in Merida that I have seen. They include

  • Yucatan Museum of Popular Art (Museo de Arte Popular de Yucatan)
  • Galeria Merida
  • The Yucatan Music Museum (Museo de La Canción)
  • Olimpo
  • Governor’s Palace (Palacio del Govierno)
  • MACAY (Museo de Contemporaneo Ateneo de Yucatan)
  • Merida City Museum (Museo de La Ciudad)
  • City Museum of Merida Yucatan – Upstairs Gallery
  • Galería at the University Cultural Center (UADY)
  • Yucatan Painting Gallery (Pinocateca del Estado de Yucatan)
  • Jose Peon Contreras Gallery
  • Gallery in La’Kech
  • Art on the Street
  • Galería Manolo Rivero
  • Centro de Artes Visuales
  • La Quilla
  • La Luz Galeria
  • La Casa de los Artistas
  • El Dragón Sabio (The Wise Dragon)
  • Anthropology Museum
  • Casa Museo Montes Molina
  • Galeria Tataya
  • Georgia’s House
  • Casa Catherwood
  • Centro Cultural Ricardo Lopez Mendez
  • Habemus Gallery

I took the picture above at the MACAY in February.

Meet the crocodiles

 meet the crocodiles

By this rickety peer near the ancient Maya ruins of Kabah was a rough handwritten sign that invited visitors to “meet the crocodiles” (encontre a los cocodrillos). It was a prospect that seemed all too likely.

Protecting butterflies


Mexican president Felipe Calderon visited the Sierra Chincua monarch butterfly reserve to announce a new $4.6 million program that will provide equipement and marketing support for the preserve, which is the winter refuge of monarch butterflies that migrate south from Mexico. Without a safe Mexican habitat, the butterflies would be endangered.

Calderon noted the significance of the butterflies to indigenous peoples:

The butterflies’ stay meant the essence of the dead, because the butterflies used to arrive around the time of the Day of the Dead and for the Otomí and Mazahua, they represented the spirit of the harvest, because the harvest ended when the Monarch butterfly arrived. These butterflies, which attract thousands of tourists, are regarded as one of Mexico’s natural wonders and this season, we hope to receive 230,000 tourists.

Calderon also announced that Mexico is working with the United Nations to have the monarch butterfly area recognized as a World Heritage Site.

via Mexico Premiere (also the source of the photo on which my artwork is based)

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