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TRAVEL SERIES: México and the Maya Culture

I am fascinated with Pre-Columbian history and culture. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be a participant in the National Endowment for the Humanities Grant awarded to Texas State University to study the Maya – Past and Present. Maya archeological sites can be found throughout the Yucatán peninsula as well as parts of Central America. Our first stop was the colonial city of Mérida. Mérida is one of those cities that you can visit over and over because it has so much beauty and charm. Mérida was constructed over an ancient Mayan city and many important buildings, including the cathedral, were constructed from materials removed from the Maya ruins. Mérida retains its Spanish colonial splendor while still exhibiting all of the signs of a modern, cosmopolitan city.

From Mérida, we visited the archeological ruins of Dzibilchaltun and Uxmal. Our group was very fortunate because we had an archeologist and anthropologist traveling with us to explain historical and cultural developments of the Maya. Uxmal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is an absolute work of architecture. You will need to take some time to thoroughly enjoy this site.

From Mérida, we traveled to Valladolid. Valladolid is another one of those magical towns that you want to visit frequently when you want to escape large crowds; Valladolid has a population of about 50,000 people while Mérida has three-quarters of a million people. From Valladolid, we traveled to Chichén Itzá, one of the most visited Maya sites. You will be mesmerized by the grandeur of this site. During the vernal equinox, tens of thousands of people from all over the world descend upon Chichén Itzá to see the illusion of the “slithering serpent” on the pyramid of El Castillo. Chichén Itzá is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Finally, we traveled to the state of Chiapas to visit the Maya ruins of Palenque. Palenque is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its majestic architecture is splendid and impressive. Palenque is one of the greatest achievements in Maya architecture. In Chiapas, we also visited the Agua Azul Waterfalls. What a splendid location to swim, relax, and enjoy the natural, beautiful turquoise water pools that result from the falls.

Some may say that once you’ve seen a pyramid, you’ve seen them all. Absolutely not! They have similarities but each one has its own essence and beauty. I encourage you to visit these cities and archaeological sites to obtain a sense of pre-Columbian history, view colonial era cities, and enjoy nature at its best.

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