Art, Culture, Books and Travel

The Heart of The Mayan World! Guatemala

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Guataemala is a country which is full of beauty that is hard to put down on paper. A country that is full of cultural and historic treasures.The flowing rivers,the beautiful land scapes,the cloud forests,the green nature,the mountains,caves such as the Candelaria caves which can be visited by walking and by boat.The ever smiling indigenous people – the Maya,their rituals,their ruins and the black community, the Garifunas that originated from San Vicent in the Caribbean.

Guatemala gained her independence on the 15th of September in the year 1821 from the spanish but became fully independent from Mexico in the 1840s. The maya of Guatemala are the largest indigenous group in Central America with 23 spoken Maya languages.The Maya civilization dominated this country for almost 2000 years before the arrival of the spanish conquerers in the early 16th century.

Tikal national park in the Peten forest of northern Guatemala is an archeological site which I visited and experienced the Maya art,architecture, the marvellous pyramids,the great temples,the meaningful signs and symbols that left me in awe.Both locals and tourists from all over the world visit Tikal to see the famous Maya ruins. I took a walk through the forest with the help of a guide and discovered that this forest has got many different types of trees and herbs, for example, I say the incense trees, rubber trees, the Mayan tree of life whose roots represents the under world and its branches represent life above.I was greately impressed by the howler monkeys which roar like lions for protection,some call them spider monkeys. At first I was scared thinking that they were huge and dangerous to humans, but was suprised to see they are small and not as dangerous. The closer we got, the more noise they made. By the time I went out of tikal, I was making the same noise.

I call Tikal the city of artisans and artists.Through stone carving, the Maya conveyed their visions of the world, the planet earth, the heavens and the under world – the world of the gods. My guide explained how they could roll down huge stones and use smaller ones for carving.He said that, it could take them many years to turn them into sculptures. All the symbols and writings were done using stones as there were no other tools.

After Mundo Pertido which is the oldest pyramid in Tikal and also known as the great pyramid of the lost world, I was led to the last temple to be constructed by the Prince Jaguar. It stands out tall amongest trees and still holds its beauty.
He then led me to the Plaza Of Seven Temples where he explained to me that, this was the place where human sacrifices and other ceremonies used to take place during the Maya civilisation.The living maya culture still perfom ceremonies outside of this temple when the sun and moon rises up. He went on to say that, the Maya people have got 13 gods of the day and 9 gods of the night.

Waking up on a peaciful morning with breath taking views of the lake Atitlan,which is one of the many natural wonders of Guatemala and the most beautiful lake in the world that is sorrounded by three active volcanoes, the Toliman,Atitlan and San Pedro.Siping on the arabica coffee that is grown in the same highlands by the Maya,is a life time experience.
When you Look at the three Volcanoes, you get the feeling that you could reach out and touch the sky.Volcano Toliman is one of its kind in Guatemala with two peaks and it takes more time to reach its summit than the other two volcanoes.

While siting down at Dr.Clemens’s balcony, I enjoyed watching the wonderful sunsets, boats to and from Panajachel town to San Pedro la laguna and the villages around lake Atitlan. Panajachel is a maya town with lake view gardens where I enjoyed walking in the afternoons. The presence of the generous maya women and men in their colourful traditional attires, shops filled with Maya handcrafts and restuarants where you can eat real Maya traditional dishes,is an un forgotable experience.

There are so many questions without answers about the Maya culture, their rise,their reign,their famous calender, but the most common one is, why they abandoned such a great city in the Peten regions of Guatemala by the year 1000 AD which seems to have taken them many years to establish?

Some archeologists say, the regions were densely populated and land was depleted by unsustained farming which resulted into a strong famine that might have led to the collapsing and abandoning of the classic Maya states.

Others say,the collapse and abandonment of the great Maya cities might have been caused by smallpox that attacked the regions right after the european explorers. But it seems like no one will ever produce a satisfying answer as to why the Maya abandoned their great cities. Meanwhile,we are waiting to see what will happen in the year 2012 when the Maya calender expires.

by Roselyne Munyenye Princess

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