In Yucatán, we are proud to be in the constant presence of all that Maya culture has brought to the state. Though much of their knowledge and way of life remains a mystery, what we do know is fascinating and deserving of respect. Many people who are unfamiliar with the culture tend to believe the Maya are long gone; however, their descendants still inhabit much of the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas; as well as large territories in Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras.
The Maya were gifted creators, and as such, developed hieroglyphic writing, excelled at pottery, invented the mathematical concept of zero, and were the authors of a well-known and complex calendar system. Their planting cycles have been guided by astronomical observations for a thousand years. This invaluable astronomical and agricultural knowledge has been passed on from generation to generation, and today, Maya farmers still take to the sky to plan the corn harvest and choose the best time for their ceremonies.
The cities deep in southeastern México’s jungle, that have given the Maya their reputation as the great artists of Mesoamerica, are astonishing. And with a quick drive, you’re able to time travel to the very places where this advanced civilization used to roam, create, and exist. When I visited Ek Balam last year, our guide passionately spoke of the historical events that had taken place at that site, narrated the legends told and retold in oral tradition, and recounted the stories of those who used to live in the city – I was in awe. It’s not hard to close your eyes and picture the Maya astronomers glancing at the stars in The Observatory hundreds of years ago.
The modern Maya continue to have a deep sensibility for the sky and land that shapes their worldview today. Their way of life is maintained in their communities, languages, and their connection with the Earth and the sky. Being able to appreciate this culture teaches us that all things in the universe are interconnected. This knowledge is still alive and in practice today and we, well we are lucky to bear witness and have the opportunity to learn from one of the world’s great civilizations.
Editorial by Greta Garrett
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