chichen itza chacmoolChichen Itza, about 4 hours from Cancun, was abandoned long before Columbus reached the “New World”, yet Maya culture continues to exert a significant influence today in the lives of millions. During the “Dark Ages” of Europe, the Maya of Chichen Itza had a sophisticated mathematics and astronomy, and the only written language in the Americas.

Maya civilization and culture spread from its origins on the Yucatan peninsula to much of Central America, where it still thrives in the lives of 5 million people, more than 30 languages and many ethnic backgrounds. Modern Maya continue many of their ancient traditions such as speaking Indian dialects instead of Spanish. Many spiritual aspects of Mayan life are still exercised today, fusing Catholicism with Mayan beliefs.

chichen itza cenoteCirca 550 AD, Mayas settled Chichen Itza around two wells; one sacred and one profane (for everyday use). These underground wells and connectiong waterways, known as “Cenotes”, were believed to be doorways to the “Afterlife”. Many scuba divers, today, enjoy exploring these clear underground rivers.

Chichen Itza, like most Mayan ruins, was primarily a spiritual and ceremonial site, with it’s ballgames and human sacrifices. According to Toltec history, in 987AD the legendary ruler Quetzalcoatl was defeated and expelled from Tula. He was last seen leaving from the Gulf coast on a raft of serpents. In the same year, Mayan stories recorded the arrival of a king named Kukulcan, the Serpent God, whose return had been expected. Kukulcan defeated the Mayan city tribes, and made Chichen Itza his capital. At the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun’s shadow on the the steps of Kukulkan’s pyramid creates the illusion of a snake (Quetzalcoatl) moving to earth.

Back to the top of Chichen Itza.