venus in scorpio is a sad story.
she wants so badly to devote herself to someone. she was born to be an eternal lover. her commitment is intense and real. the depths of her love are unfathomable and terrifying. she is like a careless mermaid who snatches a sailor from his boat and drags him down to the bottom of the sea and is heartbroken when she realizes humans need air to live.
she needs someone who can bear the weight of her passion. someone who can meet her with complexity, courage, and permanence instead of capriciousness, trepidation, and vapidity.

Mayan History (Part 60): Tayasal

Nojpetén (called Tayasal by the Spanish) was the last independent Mayan city.  It was built on an island in Lake Petén Itzá, in the Petén department of Guatemala.  It is now covered by the modern city of Flores.

The name means “great island” in the Itzá language.

In 1194, the Itzá were driven out of Chichén Itzá after a rebellion.  The survivors wandered southwards through Yucatán and the Petén, eventually ending up on the island, where they built a new city.

However, Mayan & Spanish sources say that Nojpetén was founded in the mid-1400’s.  After the Itzá in Mayapan were deposed by the Xiu family, they fled south and settled on the island.  They divided the city up into four quarters, based on lineage.

The Spanish wrote that the city had 21 temples, the largest having a base of 16.5 square metres, with nine levels.  It was similar to the main pyramids in Chichén Itzá and Mayapan, but smaller.  It had a shrine on the top, with idols representing the Itzá gods.

Nojpetén was spared by Cortés and the conquistadors, but only temporarily.  In February 1697, a force of 235 Spanish soldiers and 120 native labourers, under the command of Martín de Ursúa y Arismendi arrived on the lake’s western shore, and on March 13th, they attacked the city, and conquered it.

The modern city of Flores.

Mayan History (Part 61): The Aftermath

After Mayapan fell in 1441, Yucatán fell apart into warring city-states.  Things were made worse in 1464 when a hurricane devastated the country; and again in 1480 by an epidemic.

In 1511, the first Spaniards arrived on the Yucatán coast.  They set off a smallpox epidemic in 1515-16.  In 1517, 1518, and 1519, exploring expeditions were carried out (the latter by Cortés himself).  But they found little gold on the peninsula, so they left it alone for the time being.

In 1524-25, Cortés led a small army (including Mayan & other native allies) from Tuzantepetl on the Gulf of Mexico, across Tabasco, Yucatán and the Petén, to put down a revolt in Honduras. They travelled across the most desolate parts of Mesoamerica, and it has been suggested that this was deliberate on the part of his native guides.

Francisco de Montejo undertook the first official attempt at conquering Yucatán in 1527-28.  He had with him a force of 380 men and 57 horses.

Montejo had a rather difficult time of it, to say the least.  Each city had to be conquered separately, as there was no central government to negotiate with.  And by this time, the Maya knew of the Spanish and what they’d been doing in Mexico.  They avoided pitched battles, but did excellently with guerrilla warfare.

Montejo’s first base was the port city of Xel Há, and they chased him out of that.  His second base was the Chetumal (on the Belize border, further down the coast), and they did the same.  One of the leaders of the Mayan warriors was a Spanish man called Guerrero.  He was killed at Ulua (northern Honduras) by a chance shot.

After his death, the war continued in much the same way, and by 1535, the Maya were victorious, and the Spanish had been thrown out of Yucatán.  Montejo retired, leaving the job to his son, Francisco de Montejo “el Mozo”.

Montejo Jr. resumed the assault in 1542.  They succeeded enough to be able to build the town of Mérida, on top of the old Mayan town of Tiho.  This town is still there today, and the house which Montejo Jr. built in 1549 is beside the central plaza.

The Maya were struggling, now.  There were two reasons for this.  1) Like in Mexico, some tribes allied with the Spanish to settle old scores (they later realized their mistake).  2) The Maya were used to warfare in limited doses: after a campaign, they’d go back to regular life.  The Spanish did not fight like this.  They were fighting a war of subjugation & enslavement.

Montejo had pawned his wife’s jewels and given a large sum of money to the Spanish king.  In return, the king “granted” him a vast territory of 1,000 square miles – 2590 square km – of land he did not own to give.  And worse still, the Spanish invaders divided it up among themselves in their usual way, including a grant of serfs for each landowner.  In their minds, the Maya were already enslaved, before they war had even finished.

The Catholic Church came along with the invaders.  Bishop de Landa was one of the earliest missionaries.  He learned some of the Mayan language, and then took a journey on foot through his diocese to evangelize.  He mostly failed, so he turned to violent methods, destroying idols, shrines and literature.  Only three Mayan books survived.

De Landa was harsh on the Spanish, too.  Those who missed Mass were flogged.  He was brought back to Spain because of his excessive methods, and he’s actually one of the main sources of information on the Maya of that time.  While awaiting examination, he wrote a book on Yucatán’s history.  He also made a key for the partial decipherment of the glyphs.

The Maya rose up in revolt against the Spanish in 1847, 1860, and 1910.  They adopted the Catholic faith, but kept their own religion as well, and the two religions became merged together.

In the highlands, events were similar.  The Guatemalan Maya were left alone until Mexico had been conquered.  In 1523 (the year before Cortés’ march to Honduras), Pedro de Alvarado was sent southwards to subdue the mountain tribes, the main one being Quiche.

And again, the Maya were divided, and some made common cause with the Spanish.  The Cakchiquel in particular wanted to get their own back on the Quiche, who had been their enemy for a long time.

Utatlan and Iximche fell in 1524; Zaculeu and Mixco Viejo in 1525. The Spanish built Santiago de los Caballeros as their capital city, but it was destroyed in 1541 by earthquake, flood and mud.  They built another Santiago (now known as Antigua), which was also destroyed by earthquake, in 1717 and 1773.  However, it is now flourishing again.

Mayan History (Part 57): Tulum

Tulum is on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula.  It was built on 12m-high cliffs.

During the Postclassic Period [950-1200], Tulum was a major port for the city of Cobá, further inland.  It had walls (unlike most Mayan cities) – 6m thick in some places, and 4.5-6.0m tall.  It has five narrow openings, which can fit one person at a time.  Tulum was on trade routes both on land and sea, especially for obsidian.

Tulum was ruled over by Mayapan.  It seems to have been an important site for the worship of the Diving/Descending god.  Their population was 1,000-1,600.

The city survived for about 70 years after the Spanish arrived, which was unusual.  By the end of the 1500’s, it had been abandoned completely.

The Temple of the Frescoes was an observatory for tracking the sun’s movements.  It has a lower gallery, and a smaller 2nd-storey gallery. Its façade has depictions of the Mayan diving-god.

Temple of the Frescoes.

The Temple of the Diving God is smaller, and in the central part of the site.  It is called that because the diving-god is depicted in stucco on the western wall.

Temple of the Diving God.

El Castillo is a 7.5m-tall pyramid.  It was built in stages, on an already-existing building.  There is a small shrine, which would have been used as a beacon for incoming trade canoes.  It lines up exactly with a break in the barrier reef, through which the canoes would enter a cove and landing beach.

El Castillo.

The ruins from the air.

Looking towards the harbour.

Mayan History (Part 58): Cobá

Cobá is about 48km inland, and Tulum was its port.  It was at the centre of the largest Mayan stone-causeway road network.  The most well-preserved road links it with Yaxuna, about 100km east (a bit south of Chichén Itzá.  This road had to cross numerous swamps on its way.  Another road links it with Xel Há, which is another port just north of Tulum.

Cobá was founded between 50 BC and 100 AD, as a town.  There were wooden buildings with palm fronts and flat platforms.  This is known from pottery fragments.

After 100 AD, the region around the town grew in population.  Cobá’s political & social status increased, and it would eventually become one of the most powerful city-states in the Northern Yucatán.

During the 200’s to the 500’s, Cobá dominated the region around it, including parts of East Yucatán.  The city owed its power to its control over large areas of farmland, trading routes, and water resources.

After 600 AD, other powerful city-states emerged within the Puuc culture, and so did Chichén Itzá.  From 900/1000 AD, Cobá struggled against Chichén Itzá, and after 1000 AD, lost much of its political power.

However, it did manage to keep some of its religious importance. There were new buildings constructed between 1200-1500 AD.  However, power and trade had shifted to the coast, so Cobá would never recover its status.  When the Spanish conquered the Yucatán Peninsula around 1550, Cobá had already been abandoned.

Cobá has many stelae that record events from the Late Classic Period [600-900 AD].  Many of its rulers were women.  There are traces of Teotihuacán architecture.

Nohoch Mul Pyramid, which is 42m high.

One of its two ball-courts.

The Signs as Mayan Deities.
  • Aries: <i>Buluc Chabtan</i> was the god of war, violence and death to whom human beings were sacrificed regularly.
  • Taurus: <i>Ah Uaynih</i> was goddess of sleep. She was especially helpful in putting men to sleep.
  • Gemini: <i>Cacoch</i> was a creator god who presides over creativity and communication.
  • Cancer: <i>Ixchel</i> was the goddess of the moon, childbirth, pregnancy and rainbows.
  • Leo: <i>Ah Bolom Tzacab</i> was the god of aristocracy, royalty, kings and queens.
  • Virgo: <i>Ixcuiname</i> was the goddess of the four ages of womankind; life of child, maiden, mother, crone is unclear.
  • Libra: <i>Ndozin</i> was the god of death and justice. He is also the "Lord of the Night".
  • Scorpio: <i>Ixazalvoh</i> was the goddess of water, life, and weaving. She also presides over female sexuality.
  • Sagittarius: <i>Ahulane</i> was war god associated with archery and known as The Archer.
  • Capricorn: <i>Alaghom Naom</i> was the goddess of the mind, thoughts and inspiration.
  • Aquarius: <i>Acat</i> was god of the art of tattooing and patron of tattoo artists.
  • Pisces: <i>Ixtab</i> was the goddess of suicides and, particularly, those who died by hanging.

In a country where about 40 percent of people self identify as indigenous, the National Indigenous Queen of Guatemala contest carries great prestige. In contrast to mainstream beauty pageants, the contestants for the Rabin Ajaw title, aged 14 to 26, have to demonstrate proficiency in their native language, Mayan traditions and worldview; awareness about mining and other threats to Mayan livelihood and resources; a nuanced view of gender roles; and leadership in their community.

The 19th century style Afghani wooden box camera used by the photographer meant that the women had to sit still for several minutes gazing into the camera, enabling a depth of engagement rarely achieved with today’s hectic technology.

Photographer: Rodrigo Abd

Mayan History (Part 59): Mayapan

Mayapan is in central Northern Yucatán, about 48km north-east of Uxmal.

The site was chosen to be a military stronghold: it is barren rock, and wouldn’t have been chosen for its agricultural possibilities. Mayapan covers 4.2 square kilometres, and has over 4,000 structures. Most of them are residential buildings, and are within the city walls.

A stone wall runs around the perimeter.  It is 3-3.5m thick, up to 3.5m high, and 9.1km long.  It has twelve gates, seven of which have vaulted entrances.

The ceremonial centre is closely-packed with buildings: temples, colonnaded halls, shrines, sanctuaries, oratories and platforms. However, the buildings are not well-constructed.  Nearly all the vaulted roofs have collapsed, while many of Chichén Itzá’s have not.  The best masonry is found in the nobility’s residences, which had been taken from the site preceding Mayapan.

The city is poorly laid-out, too, with no streets, although lanes wind around the residences and walls.  The houses are often arranged in small “patio groups” around a central small courtyard.

The main temple is the Temple of Kukulcan (Quetzalcoatl), to the east of the Cenote Ch'en Mul.  It has four staircases and nine terraces, and is quite similar to Chichén Itzá’s Temple of Kukulcan.

Temple of Kukulcan.

The total population was probably around 15-17,000.  The houses around the ceremonial centre are larger and better-quality than the ones further out.  The densest area of settlement was in the south-west, which had the most cenotes.  (There were perhaps as many as 40 cenotes in the residential areas.)

Mayapan dominated the Yucatán cities for several centuries.  Sources disagree on exactly how it was established.  Possibly after a civil war against the Toltecs of Chichén Itzá, various lords met together to restore a central government to the Yucatán region, and the chief of the Cocom family was chosen as ruler.

Important members of royal families had to live permanently in Mayapan as hostages.  Eventually, the Xiu family (who claimed to be of the Uxmal lineage) started a rebellion against them, and it was successful.  Mayapan was sacked in 1441, and all of the Cocom family were killed, except one who was away on trade business.  Following this, the larger cities in the region declined, and Yucatán devolved into warring city-states.

Mayapan, from the summit of the Temple of Kukulcan.