Chichen Itza Chicken Pizza
April 5, 2011 § 4 Comments
Before coming to Cancun, I looked up the tours offered by the resort, some of which sounded amazing. ATV ride through the jungle? Horseback riding to a cenote? Sign me up PLEASE. But mother [& her wallet] had other ideas, so after some deliberation, we settled on a tour to Chichen Itza instead.
Neither my father nor brother wanted to go, and at $77/person, this full-day tour wasn’t exactly for the softcore tourist. My dad was actually grumpy about it, demanding why we would want to spend all day on a bus. My brother was more or less the same: “Have fun going to see a stupid pyramid.” It’s so difficult living with uncultured brutes. We gladly ditched them at the hotel.
We set off at 7:10 in the morning on a coach bus full of other tourists. Right away, we could tell that this wasn’t going to be some crappy quality tour, as the tour guides began the day by offering us orange juice, coffee and pastries. We had three conductors, each of whom was very good. I wish I had gotten pictures with them :(
Marco Antonio gave details and instructions on the places we were going to see, which were not simply limited to the Chichen Itza site. Tony, who was part Mayan, told us a brief history of the Yucatán province. “Don’t worry about leaving your belongings on the bus,” he said. “There are no more banditos in the area.” His eyes shifted. “They all left and became politicians.” LOL. Norma was our guide through Chichen Itza; she, too, was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the place.
In elementary school, I was part of the gifted program, called Project Arrow. It was there that I was first exposed to the Mayan civilization, with their dots and dashes and hoop ball game and astronomy. Looking at historical artifacts arranged behind glass in museums is incredibly boring, but learning the history while seeing the structures up close was immensely gratifying to the brain. This is the land where they walked. This is the alter where they sacrificed humans.
I learned things such as the fact that Mayans sacrificed young boys, not girls. The adults who were beheaded and otherwise sacrificed were considered heroes who gave up their lives for the good of the people. Mayans had a fixation with serpents and planetary movements. There was a small stone hump on their alter because it’s easier to tear somebody’s heart out of his chest when his back is arched. White limestone highways are blinding to walk on during the hot day, but they glow in the moonlight. It is commonly accepted that Mayans had Asiatic roots. The ball game that they played wasn’t for sport; it was a religious ritual, and the winner was beheaded as an honor. It’s false that Mayans no longer exist — apparently they are 7 million strong.
One thing that the tour guides emphasized was the fact that tourism fuels the economy here. “Prior to 40 years ago, Mayans were moving away from the Yucatán to more metropolitan areas to find better jobs,” Tony told us. “But when Cancun opened, when Chichen Itza opened, they provided ways to make a living.” It was something I had wondered about as well — how much does Mexico’s economy benefit from/depend on tourism? Mother told me she heard a joke about Americans coming to Mexico for vacations while Mexicans went to America for jobs.
Anyhow, it was apparent from the countless vendors lined up at Chichen Itza that this was how they survived. I thought about this as mother haggled with one of them for some souvenirs I wanted to buy. I had already brought the price down to 30 pesos [less than $3] for three trinkets, but mother insisted on getting three for 20 pesos. I understand that this is also my parents’ hard-earned money, but really, who needs that dollar more, we or the peddler? In most circumstances that I’ve ever experienced in any country, I’d argue the latter.
Chichen Itza was significantly hotter than Cancun — it’s 150 miles inland and as flat as Illinois — so as much as I enjoyed taking photos with my parents’ DSLR, I was ready to throw up and pass out from heat and dehydration by lunchtime. Mother said it was more than 100 degrees out there. After lunch, our tour took us to a cenote, which is basically a huge, naturally occurring underground water reservoir. Steps had been carved into the stone so that we could climb down and see from inside. People were encouraged to change into their swimsuits and take a dip in the refreshing water.
There was a small Mayan dance performance taking place near the water as entertainment. I appreciated the show as much as they appreciated the tips, I’m sure, but it led me to wonder at the authenticity of everything. Is that how ancient Mayans actually dressed and danced, or is that simply what they know tourists want to see? I picked the Chichen Itza tour [as opposed to some exotic-sounding waterpark] because I wanted to experience real Mexico, but as a tourist, I can never truly be sure if I’m getting the authentic thing.
In any case, the tour was satisfying and definitely worth the money. It’s different going on things like this as an adult, guided by people who clearly believe in the worth of what they’re promoting. That’s what sets this experience apart from all the excruciating historical tours I’ve been on with my parents in China.
Note: “chicken pizza” is the incorrect pronunciation of Chichen Itza, according to our tour guides. But my mom likes saying it that way :P