ROMANCING THE MAYAS
I have a dear Mexican friend and she loves archeology and the past history of her people, the Mayas.
With her I had explored several Mayan cities.
She is Mary Quiroz.
Maria, this is equally your story
Without your love for your great country, Mexico, and without your archeological
passion and love for the Maya’s civilization, this story couldn’t have been possible. It
was a pleasure being with you and discover together the life of Tula, Lord of Five
Thunders and the remains of The City of the Moon.
The greatest love in my life is archeology. The passion started casually at the time I was at high school, and since then this passion never left me.
It was because of this passion that years after I went to Mexico in a remote volcanic area, secluded from the rest of civilization. Over there, today, are only left a few scattered relicts as testimony of the past Mayan’s civilization grandeurs that lasted over a millennium. Suddenly this magnificent city was wiped away, and only some rubble of the monuments erected by this ancient people was left and only the eyes of the scholars could now recognize that over the past a grand city existed here.
For this reason today, this volcanic highland is visited only by a few adventurous tourists who are mainly attracted by the unsurpassed beauties of the wilderness of this remote country and not by the historical past splendor of the Mayan era.
My arrival was accidental. I didn’t go there in search of an archeological place. I intended to stay there for a few days, but moving around my curiosity was attracted by the geometrical successions of a chain of hill-rising over the horizon. My curiosity was aroused also by the discovery of a few blocks of stone, squared up with the chisel, that surfaced above the ground, indicating that over the past existed some buildings possibly erected by the Mayans.
It was in my peregrination around the plateau, that I met Maria, who was also busy collecting small relicts on her own. Talking with her I understood she had some archeological interest and I asked to join forces with me. Soon she was my valuable assistant.
Maria was a Mexican schoolteacher, and had a class of local children, who were the direct descendents of those Mayans who found the City of the Moon. These locals are still speaking the original Mayan dialect in the way it was spoken a thousand years ago, and they also inherited the way to build their huts, that today are similar to those constructed by their precursors in the old time.
We started a methodical research across the plateau exploring over the remains scattered over the vast territory. We spend in this way many months of hard work, but at the end, with some luck we reached unexpected discoveries buried under a light strait of soil and vegetation. The relicts we found made me presume that in the remoteness of time this was the site of the Mayan City of the Moon and in the past had saw days of splendor and opulence, and a flourished centre of commerce with their neighbor cities in the region.
But today nothing is left of that majesty, only those few scattered rubbles that are hardly discerned between the vegetation covering the plateau.
It was a strenuous long work inspecting the remains I reached the conclusion that the city was abandoned after it was destroyed by war and fire and possibly that catastrophe came without warning to their inhabitants, and marked the end of the opulent city and the life for his people.
Still an aura of mystery was suspended over those scattered remains that fascinated me. Day after day those simple discoveries we came through, gave me a possibility to start to join together, piece by piece, the intricate jigsaw that presented the life in those remote days. With my fantasy I started to form a picture of it, and I was transforming my vision with penciled sketches of how possibly the city was looking to a visitor. In this way I recreated, with the help of the remains, that mosaic forming the alikeness of this city at the time it was at the apogees of the local civilization.
I knew I needed patience, but in time I would be able, to go to the bottom of those secrets, which where starting to take place in my imagination.
How wouldn’t I be temped by the frenzy of the discovery?
I had the feeling that this was the opportunity I waited for all my life. It was still a weak possibility, but I had the vision of a future success. Around the large plateau I found evidences enough to compel me to stay.
Obstinately I took the decision; I would live in the district till the riddle of the mystery in front of me would be solved and I would find why the city was destroyed.
I t was enough motivation around me. I had become restless roaring around the large area of the Altopiano. Those scarce relicts we found scattered over such a large area, would at the end, tell me their secrets that still today hide under a pile of dirt.
The vegetation, over hundred of years, had wildly grown and mixed with the ruins and in this way they made the city unrecognizable.
Maria and I were certainly not able to make the enormous work of excavation considering the scarce financial resources I had. That would always come in a future when we would establish more facts. We needed money from some sponsors to be able to restore to the light of the sun those remains.
Finally a day we were paid off from our hard work. In the harboring woods we found the sacrificial altar that the Maya’s priests used for human sacrifices, in the way to ingratiate or placate the rage of their deities.
Normally an archeological discovery leads into others, and with this hope in mind I was meticulously searching in the area close to the sacrificial alter. I was hoping to find other relict capable to establish the public life of The City of the Moon.
It was one afternoon that I ventured deeper into the thick bushy area surrounding the altar in search of more clues.
Suddenly a storm of birds appeared in the sky above and swirled noisily in the air. Their noises attracted my attention. Equally rapidly as they had appear those birds equally mysteriously disappeared and again I found myself surrounded by a fictitious stillness. How possibly could those birds appear or disappeared without notice?
I was analyzing this puzzled when again, and without any warning the birds garrulously flew in the sky returning the best of their high pitched notes.
In the rush I followed their flight and I moved a few steps into the thick bush to better inspect the mystery, when …
“My Goodness…” I had only time to scream while I was into a free fall; the ground under my feet had vanished. I was thrown into a deep abyss and …then I completely lost consciousness.
I didn’t know when I waked up. I was only aware that a thick darkness surrounded me and I was incapable to discern anything.
I was in an uncomfortable position, incapable to move, and my head was spinning.
I tried to free my legs that were miserably twisted in an unnatural angle, and aching under the heaviness of my body. My vane tentative to stand up created more discomfort and nausea. I realized then that the bones in my leg were broken, and to the touch of my hand, I found a thick coat of coagulated blood that glued my clothes over the flesh of my injured legs.
I considered myself lucky to be still alive. The light that entered from the narrow hole above me, and the one I thought I had fell in, had weakened to a near obscurity telling me that it was night. I made some mental calculation and I judged that opening above me would be at least twenty meters above the cave floor where I laid now.
The pavement, at the touch of my hands, presented a heap of old brittle human bones and most likely I was still alive because those bones had cushioning my landing over the hardiness of the rocky floor.
Those bones, I believed, were the remains of old Maya’s sacrifices to their gods, which bodies, at the end of the ritual, were rolled into the cave opening and over the time had piled up on the cave floor.
Thinking of my misfortune I was also taken by a hysterical laugh thinking of the possibility that, if I would never being found my bones would mix for good with those ancient one for the rest of eternity. I also saw the comical conclusion of my discovery. I finally had found what I desired throughout my entire life of searching, but that discovery would never return to me the dream of glory I was chasing. Had I to laugh or cry? But more seriously I considered the possibility that I would never be able to tell anybody of the bizarre way my luck had worked out. What the good of it if that secret would be entombed with me for eternity. Or would I be lucky again to give time to a rescue team to find me alive?
I coolly foreseen that I was trapped into a cave with the possibly that nobody knew of the existence. My life hung dangerously to a tiny thread of hope and I risked to be trapped underground for ever. Getting out alive from that deep tomb would only be the luckiest of any possible expectation.
On that night fever and delirium overpowered my poor body while pain shook my body whenever I tried to adjust my limbs into a better position.
How long would I be able to survive without water?
How soon the alarm of my disappearance would be raised in the village by Maria, my assistant, and when a rescue team would start to look after me, and more, would they be able to find me?
It could take days before they could get to me. I knew that to survive longer I had to be capable to remain calm throughout time and coldly fight with my self-control again the gravity of the moment.
That was the reason why I let myself indulge into remembering some happy days of the past. Keeping my mind busy I could fight easier against the agony of desperation.
I was semi-conscious and a vision was running in front of me. I saw my past life projected in black and white over a wide screen of a movie-house, beginning when I was an adolescent and I ventured into my first exploration to England.
I have been told that the founder of my family was a Roman Centurion who went with his legion to colonize that far border of the Empire. I followed him and his legion, step by step along the route that from Rome took them across Gaul into Britannia. He was sent there to impose Julius Caesar’s powers and the Roman laws.
That was my first adventurous trip alone. I moved slowly across the country following the Roman rout. I took time to visit what it was left from their colonization and learning from the many Roman relicts scattered along the way.
It was excited to learn from those Roman remains which raised in me the desire to learn from the past civilizations, and the spirit of my great Roman ancestor was my guide.
Those were my first steps initiating me to the joy of archeology and that pleasure took soon my hand and in time it became an imperative urgency to learn more about the past. The relicts I could find explained vividly the steps men took across time, and the reasons why we are what we are today. Those little treasures which I found from the past were explaining me that we are the depositors of the past civilization through time and we inherited their acquired knowledge.
But at that time those were only dreams that too soon were miserably sunk, on the day I spoke of my passion to my father. He ruthless stopped me to pursue my aspiration.
I was compelled to stay under his thumb and left without any alternative. Since that day I couldn’t ever win a fight against my father’s strong will, and after that day, I never raised the discussion again with him. He imposed me; he compelled me, and mentally brainwashed and tortured me. Cowardly I never went back and ask him again. He raised to me the impelling necessity that I must be an engineer. It was my duty, he emphasized to me, to be ready and capable one day, when needed, to take over the reins of the family business.
That night, at the bottom of the cave, his ghostly appearance raised again incubus in me. In my unconsciousness I heard his strong voice echoing back from the faraway rock wall in front of me.
“I warned you many times Charlie, archeology is not for you. Don’t you see in what sort of mess you are in now for not listening to me? You had promised to look after the family’s business. Following my advice you will have now a wealthy and comfortable life.
“Believe me, Charlie; archeology would only drag you into deeper waters without possibilities to find fame or richness. Go back home!”
His words bounced back and forward several times from the faraway wall. He, after years in his grave, was still imposing me his strong will.
I was exhausted and my mind as well as my body suffered more for this interference of my father’s ghostly appearance. I could finally escape once from the mental coercive power that my father still had over me and soon I could enter into a forgettable state of mind and enter into a complete apathy.
I don’t know for how long my delirium lasted.
That night, and the nights after, I kept dreaming of Maria. In my dream she was constantly at my side and she had a sad look. She was visibly worried. I could hear her soft voice while she clasped my hand, and I heard her reassuring words to infuse in me the desire to stay alive while my physical strength was slowly running out of me. She gently kept wiping away the sweat from my feverish body, whispering reassuring words.
But was she only a dream or were she real and not a vague vision with her voice playing from the remoteness of my desires?
It took an eternity but slowly I was getting out from a long dream and I started to feel the warm of her hand touching my temple. In a nebulous way I had the sensation of seeing her closer and reliving the burning fever with a cold dump cloth over my forehead.
Reassuringly, at the same time, she tried to scatter away from me the burning incubus in my mind. She was whispering gently, “Finally we had found you. Yes Charlie, we spent almost a week looking for you. We had looked for you everywhere without luck. Then finally I asked Grandpa’s help. He is the one who knows all the secrets of the old city and possibly the only one who knew about the existence of the cave. He told me that was a sacred Mayan place, where mortal people are forbidden to enter to desecrate and disturb the sleep of the deaths. That is the place reserved to the wise spirits of the past, where they are undisturbed in there eternal rest of death.
Grandpa was the only man to know of the existence of the secret passage, descending to the floor of the cave. This passage hides into the natural cavity of a secular oak.
Grandpa told me that in his long life he had visited the cavern only once, as a boy with his Father, the previous Great-priest of the Mayas. He did it as obligations to his future duties, and to preserve the traditions of his people. On that day he swore to keep secret where the passage hide and taking to the sacred place where the spirits of the past Mayas are resting. It was through Grandfather’s help that it was only possible finding you.”
Maria was murmuring all those things to me, and I heard her voice remote and soft. I wasn’t sure if the sound of her voice was real or part of my dreams but at the same time I had the physical sensation to resting in a more comfortable way and to stretch in a brighter place.
Still my nightmares were not completely over, and I kept seeing scaring visions in front of me that made me start with fright. One of the occurring incubuses was a Maya’s priest who held me secured over the sacrificial stone. But in his hand he didn’t have a sacrificial knife, instead he had a cup full of a mysterious grayish and thick beverage with a nauseating smell and compelled me to drink the infuse having an unthinkable mushroom taste.
The priest with an authoritarian voice kept repeating to me, “Drink all.”
His commanding voice had the power to finally wake me from my lethargic dreams. My vision was foggy as well as the sounds were softened by my weakness. Around the tall couch where I laid were some priests singing monotonously some litanies, ingratiating their God, the Feathered Serpent. Were they singing with the purpose to propitiate their god, in preparation of an imminent human sacrifice?
My unstable fantasy worked furiously increasing the persistent state of incubus. I was seeing around me several warriors brandishing acuminate lances, and dancing over the dusty floor. They sang their war songs in an unintelligible dialect, dancing to the rhythms of their beating feet and in the cadence of the dance they kept raising their weapons to the sky.
On the opposite corner of the large hall, where I laid, I could recognize a group of women that kneeled on the hard dusty floor. They also singsong, in broken voices, a lamenting hymn, most likely invoking clemency from their gods, and to make their prayers more acceptable to the gods they were inflicting a self carnal punishment beating their backs with leather whips.
I was cold sweating in a frenzy terrified mood, and my mind was foggy and I saw rapidly approaching the end of my days. Panic gave me the necessary energy to scream loudly I wanted to rise from the sacrificial stone that was my bed, and ran away from those warriors that kept chasing me and throw their acuminated lances.
Those nightmares lasted for weeks, and only seldom I had a clear period of consciousness. In my hallucinations I had in front of me an obfuscated vision of a young woman caring for my needs.
Finally I woke from my torpor.
Maria welcomed me back, “Oh Charlie, I have been worrying for you. It’s just over a month since we took you here. Finally you are back to life. We thought you wouldn’t survive. But God had heard my prayers.”
A grin was my only thanks to Maria.
“With Grandpa’s help it was possible rescuing you at the bottom of the sacred cave. He was the one curing your fever with a local beverage, an antique mushroom brew that is also used in their religious ceremonies. The locals also helped with prayers. They came over every day and prayed the rosary to the Virgin Mary and sang Mayan hymns to the Feathered Serpent. The Christian and pagan Gods listened to their intercession and you well see that worked out for the best. You are getting better and stronger day by day. I’m happy for your recovery.”
I regained fast my strength and I learned to walk again with the help of crotches.
Maria spent most of her free time with me, and we lengthily spoke about the cave. She narrated to me the legends of the local Mayan people, something she had learned from Grandpa over the time. Most of those stories were about the reign of the last king of the Mayan’s and The City of the Moon.
I asked Maria to arrange a meeting with Grandpa. I wanted to learn more directly from him about the secret of his ancestors. We visit the old patriarch the next morning and Maria took to him a basket of fresh food.
I recognized Grandpa immediately. He was the one at my bedside who coerced me to drink the sacred mushroom beverage.