Guatemala Part 1.

I’m back everybody! Back to blogging! I worked and worked and accomplished goals and I’m feelin’ good about it. Get ready to see a WHOLE BUNCH of art I made. But first, Guatemala. Back in March I went to Guatemala with my parents and now you’re going to learn things about it. I have completed the trinity of seeing the remains of all three major ancient cultures – The Mayans (Guatemala), The Aztecs (Mexico) and The Incas (Peru). Pre-Columbian fist pump to me. Let’s dive right in and see how much I remember from six months ago.

A good place to start would be the Popol Vuh which we visited on Day 1 or 2. Wikipedia gives a good definition of what that is.

Popol Vuh is a pre-conquest narrative dating to the Post Classic period, roughly CE 1000–1500. The actual written text, however, is a product of the Spanish colonial period. The title translates as “Book of the Community”, “Book of Counsel”, or more literally as “Book of the People”. Popol Vuh’s prominent features are its creation myth, its diluvian suggestion, its epic tales of the Hero Twins Hunahpú and Xbalanqué, and its genealogies. The myth begins with the exploits of anthropomorphic ancestors and concludes with a regnal genealogy, perhaps as an assertion of rule by divine right.

Just say “K’iche’ Bible,” it’s so much faster that way. K’iche’ is the language that was spoken in the area before Spanish became the lingua franca. It has a lot of gutteral stops which makes it a cool language to listen to (our guide spoke a little). Popol Vuh is also the name of the museum that houses most of the relics and archeological finds. If I had to sum up the art style I would quote our guide verbatim:

“The Mayans would mix toad venom with water lily essence, introduce it anally via an enema, and this allowed them to have visions and transcend different planes of existence.”

You know you could also… drink it. Does the tincture taste that bad? Maybe that’s a clue that you should not be ingesting it. Perhaps. Whatever. You do you. Anyway, the artwork really captures the aesthetic of drug-infused spiritual journeys. There were these baby-heads peering at me from the edge of a bowl:

This screaming pig (I’m unsure and picking pig as the animal represented but I could be wrong):

These jaguars with corn cobs growing out of their heads (corn is VERY big in the religion):

Men with mushrooms for heads:

Proto-Mickey Mouse chillin’ in a hot tub:

A man made of corn or cacao, I can’t remember which:

Small frogs and toad sculptures that I wanted to steal but didn’t because I have restraint and am afraid of prison:

Really Happy Jaguar Man with Leaf Hat:

This sculpture that I called Person With Runny Nose Riding Disgruntled Duck:

This guy who has the expression of someone who is holding two angry housecats that are going at each others’ throats and he’s like, “whoa, whoa, settle down guys:”

And my personal favorite, Spooky Bat:

In addition to that there were mumlettes! Mumlettes are what I call mummies that were placed in urns in the fetal position. I was first introduced to mumlettes in Peru.

The actual bodies are long gone but the urns are still around. Unsurprisingly, I loved them.

In the first two days we also visited the place where the “The Earth is going to end in 2012!!!!” came from. It’s called Quiriguá (pronounced Kih-ree-GWAH). It’s a collection of stelae (an upright stone slab or column typically bearing a commemorative inscription or relief design, often serving as a gravestone) hanging out in a field predicting the future. The front parts had portraits of the kings and the sides had hieroglyphics and dots and lines telling us what year it was made. This website, The Stelae of Quirigua, explains it far better.

The glyphs are read from left to right, starting from the top, with the pictures denoting the periods of time (i.e. years, months, days), and the dots (equaling 1 each) and vertical bars (equaling 5 each) providing the quantity of those periods. For example the top left is 9 B’ak’tun – approximately 3546 years, as each baktun roughly equals 394 years. This is followed by 18 Katuns – about 360 days, and so on. The full text provides a date of 3 Ahau 3 Yax, which equates to the July 22nd, 805.

That’s not even my favorite fact on the page. This is:

It is also interesting to note that monuments were defaced when the cities were abandoned, with particular attention being made on breaking the nose off – an action repeated across Meso-America. It is thought that this is symbolic of a belief that the statues were filled with the living power of the person they represented and that the soul of a living person resides in the nose – curiously, this belief was also held in Asia. Therefore, destroying the nose was effectively killing the monument.

Oh, and here’s a bit on the importance of corn:

On the side if Stela H is a wonderful depiction of Cauac Sky as the young God of Maize, emerging from the roots of “World Tree.” Corn was the main sustenance for the ancient Maya, and any ruler who could provide corn in abundance was considered to be an embodiment of the God of Maize and highly revered.

I remember something about their main god being made from four types of corn – white, yellow, red and black.

And concerning the end of the world happening in 2012, yes, the Mayan mention 2012 as the beginning of their new calendar. Nothing ends. It’s like when spring follows winter. Our guide said people camped out in front of the stelae and sang songs and anticipated the End of Days while the archaeologists and professors who knew what the stones meant and were probably hoarse from repeating themselves over and over rolled their eyes straight into the backs of their skulls.

Celestial events recur through time so using them to reference times in the past and the future was a very elegant solution – and one that appears to be built into the Mayan Calendar. … Curiously, the Mayan Calendar is not linear, but cyclical with a cycle length of 5,125 years, which perhaps confirms that it is based on a celestial event.

I think this is the text that caused all the hoohah.

And I took this picture for a reason but I’ve forgotten what it is. If anyone knows, let me know.

To protect the stelae from the elements they are under leaf roofs. They look like cute little chess pieces from a distance. In truth the stelae are huge, 12 feet tall and the like.

The trees are also insanely big. Here is The Moomins standing next to one.

And here is a wee orange butterfly that landed on one of the stelae and was photogenic.

Next entry: Tikal. BIG New World pyramids. Get psyched.

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