When we talk about Yucatán it’s inevitable to refer to its ancestral Maya culture, its marvelous landscapes, a gastronomy that explodes with flavor, and the kindness of its people. However, what we sometimes fail to mention is that these attributes that enchant Yucatecans, Mexicans, and visitors from around the planet alike manifest as a concept of time which is different from the one we are accustomed to. In Yucatán, days, hours, and even seconds are lived in a special way, and it has been so since ancestral times.
And who’s to “blame”? The answer is the sun.
For thousands of years, the Mayas regarded the king star – who they called Kin – as a sacred being whose movement became the axis of their world view. This belief implied that day, night, and seasonal changes were determined by Kin’s circular movement and this made time cyclical, rather than lineal.
For this reason, the Maya visualize the future as being “behind” them – where it can’t be seen. The past is thought of as being right in front, because by perceiving it, it gives the Maya a continual understanding of time. Knowing about the past makes them better in the future. Another idea that derives from circular time, is the importance of the calendar that ruled planting and harvesting, and which also occurs in cycles. The land has been – and continues to be – a source of livelihood.
Time keeps ticking in seemingly unconventional ways in these lands. Days in Yucatán pass by unhurried and time is taken to experience things in other ways and from different perspectives. Maybe it’s due to not living in the havoc of a big city, but the heat also has a lot to do with it. In Yucatán, it’s necessary to “take a siesta” as we rest our bodies and minds around mid-day.
This time, allows us Yucatecans to take a breather and makes us a more tranquil, kind, chatty, and empathic folk. This part of our heritage is still alive, regardless of the years that have passed, and Kin reigns supreme showing us the way. The past is before our eyes, and the future is just around the corner.
Planting for Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
A way of looking at the cyclic time which summarizes 3,500 years of history is without a doubt through the artistic exhibit “Tiempos de Milpa,” which was recently inaugurated in the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya. You can enjoy this exhibit until April of next year.
The Milpa is not only the physical space for harvest in Yucatán. It also is the reflection of Maya knowledge, technology, and agricultural practices which date back thousands of years. “Making Milpa” means performing the entire production process, from land selection to harvest. It implies an expertise in nature and agriculture which is synonymous with sustainable survival of both biology and society.
The “Tiempos de Milpa” experience took me on a stroll through the history and culture of circular time. I went through an interactive exhibit divided in five blocks that guided me through different moments of the Milpa such as “The First Offering,” “Drinking and Eating from the Milpa,” “The Holy Grace,” “The Exchange,” and “The Forked Road”. Installations of objects, photographs, paintings, and sculptures make for an enjoyable visit for everyone.
I enjoyed a pleasant story that connects today’s Yucatecans to their Maya ancestors and is curated in five, well-defined blocks about the productive and social process of the Milpa. This is where time comes back to show us that the cycle of life always returns and teaches us that the past is more alive than ever.
“Tiempos de Milpa”
Gran Museo del Mundo Maya
Calle 60 Norte #299-E, Unidad Revolución Cordemex C.P 97110 Mérida, Yuc.
Tel. 9993 41 0435
Facebook: Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida
Wed. – Mon. 9 am – 5 pm.
Entry: Foreign visitors $150 pesos, Mexican nationals $100 pesos, children and seniors $50 pesos. Residents of Yucatán $50 pesos, Yucatecan children $25 pesos.
Sundays are free for Yucatán residents.
Parking is $20 pesos and includes three hours.
Editorial by Cecilia García Olivieri
Photography by SEDECULTA for use in Yucatán Today
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