Saturday, April 16, 2016

Xcaret, Mexico

We visited Quintana Roo, Mexico, country of Mayans, beautiful beaches and sunshine.

All of this was delightful, but the highlight of our trip was a day trip to Xcaret, nature’s sacred paradise. It is an eco park where people may spend the day and the evening. 

There we saw ruins of the Mayan city, Xcaret,  where the ancient Mayans traded goods up and down the coast and became prosperous.  We understood how and why Xcaret had once been an important Mayan center for trade.  The fresh waters that flowed through it, and still do, are the key.  The cenotes, freshwater limestone pools, in Quintana Roo were sacred to the Mayan people as the source of life.

Xcaret is located 35 miles south of the International Cancun Airport   Those who would like to swim and snorkel in the fresh water stream that runs through it or to swim with dolphins will pay extra.   We like to do this, but there were so many other possibilities there that we opted to explore the park for the day.  The place is a nature preserve where wild animals are raised and some such as sea turtles are released into the wild.  At the entry of the park we paused near a pool of pink flamingoes and scarlet macaws.

We joined an ecological tour and our guide showed us many indigenous animals including two magnificent jaguars, one spotted and one black. We learned that the black jaguar is the albino of the species.   The cats looked contented lounging in the morning sunlight. We saw spider monkeys, curious looking manatees, and many varieties of sea turtles. We followed our guide to a small tortilla factory on the grounds with antique photos of how it used to be.  We sampled the staple food then continued on our trek through the jungle and came to dolphins playing about in the pools.

We wandered through the butterfly house with many colorful tropical butterflies that will soon be housed in a different building with a stained glass dome. We admired the round stained glass ceiling in a rectangular building and could see that it will be wonderful when the butterflies move in. 

We went into a cave where bats hung on the ceiling and when our eyes adjusted to the dim light we saw mushrooms growing there just as they had been cultivated by the ancient Mayans.  Since people are a natural part of the ecosystems, we were pleased to see temple ruins and a replica of an ancient Mayan village. I climbed up a small pyramid and sat on the throne on top thinking of how it must have been long ago.   The Mayan people knew how to live well in this place and created a sophisticated calendar 3,000 years ago.  While Europe was in the throes of the Dark Ages, the Mayans gazed at the heavens and created amazing pyramids.

There are eight restaurants on the grounds at Xcaret and we stopped at one where we saw a band carrying a guitar, harp and drum into it.  Intrigued by the music, we stayed to enjoy a brew or two and the exotic food: marinated octopus and crab, specialties of the house.  Our waiter brought us green tomato salsa with tortilla chips to begin with.  We enjoyed the scarlet macaws that seem to live there and enjoy attention from people.

The best part of our Xcaret adventure was a thrilling evening show.  We walked into a huge pavilion through ranks of fierce, colorfully dressed Mayan warriors.  Their faces were painted and they wore skins, feathers and held weapons.  Four beautiful young Mayan women stood on the lintel where we entered in clouds of copal.

We were all given candles and holders to hold and light during the show.  The first part of the show reminded me of an opening ceremony for the Olympics.  A little girl, representing a pure soul and wearing a white dress was to be our guide to the Mayan spirits and ancestors. A conch shell trumpet sounded and the stage exploded into Mayan dances to the beat of drums and flutes.  We loved seeing how athletes played a sacred Mayan ball game with a rubber ball, a gift from the gods.  One team represented the Sun, the other Venus.  It looked like a combination of soccer and basketball.  The object was to get the ball through a stone hoop.

 Another game was played barefooted with a flaming ball that represented a meteor. I wondered if the players had aluminum feet.

Enter Spanish Conquistadors on horseback who fought the Mayans.  A chill ran through the crowd as the Mayan spirit wearing a jaguar mask and a resplendent headdress of quetzal feathers screamed. The scream was a cry from the heart at what they had to lose at the hands of the Spanish. Then the Catholic monks entered.  The show was done to music and perfectly choreographed dancers.

The second part of the show demonstrated the different costumes, songs and dances of Mexico with the blending of indigenous with European peoples.  In short, it told the story of Mexico’s peoples in a dramatic and very entertaining stage show.  To that we say, Bravo!

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