Friday, February 14, 2020

Guatemala's ruins provide fascinating look at long ago Mayan life

Exploring the ruins of Iximche, Guatemala, provides a fascinating look into the ancient Mayan culture.
Volcan de Fuego steams, smokes and hisses as the tourist drives by. 



THE MAYAN people were expert architects, scientists, artists and farmers who developed a sophisticated culture.
Guatemala offers access to the culture's spectacular archeological sites, where one can actually walk through (and surprisingly "on") some beautiful monuments and ruins.
Volcan de Fuego forms a background as farmers and
workers tend their crops and ship their wares.
We were astonished to be able to climb an ancient stairway to an altar on a recent trip to Iximche, due north of Puerto Quetzal on the Pacific Ocean.
Surrounded by Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador, Guatemala is larger than its Central American neighbors, and touches both the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea.
BESIDES extraordinary ruins, the country of 16 million people is home to 33 volcanoes and more than 300 protected areas with stunning diversity including 300 micro-climates. Mountain biking, climbing and even  rafting are among celebrated diversions and the diversity of flora and fauna attracts nature lovers from all over the world.
The volcanoes were active the day we drove from Puerto Quetzal -- named after the country's showy national bird.  We saw two smoking, including Volcan de Fuego, which did serious damage in 2018.
Teenagers await a school bus, with some going to work.

Our cordial driver told us he'd advised the volcanoes not to blow that day.  His admonition was heeded by the volcano, which smoked and rumbled but didn't blow, as our mini-van cautiously passed by. A catastrophic eruption of de Fuego on June 3, 2018, took lives and we saw rubble still these months later. The death toll stood at 165 people, with 260  missing in Guatemala's most severe volcanic eruption in 45 years.
Colonial architecture abounds even
in Guatemala's villages where much
repair is occuring, here 15 kilometers
from Antigua (the city in Guatemala.)
WE WERE thankful to be spared, as only days before the volcanic island Whakaari on New Zealand's White Island's northeastern Bay of Plenty blew, killing tourists who, like us, were on a day tour.
Putting that out of our mind, we were off to soak up the colorful culture that is Guatemala: 23 ethnic groups, all with rituals and folk festivals.  Each of the country's 23 ethnic groups has its own language and the country's colonial past is evident in the architecture of the villages and the beautiful city of Antigua.
Antigua is a highlight for a visit to Guatemala, a
well preserved Colonial masterpiece.
We captured a close-up of this quetzal.
We found the people friendly and welcoming on this, our third visit. Antigua is a highlight for most travelers to Guatemala. The town has gorgeous streetscapes at every turn, fine restaurants and a lively nightlife. Students come from Europe, Britain and the U.S. to study Spanish and hike the looming volcanoes.
One may climb the ruins of Iximche, a pre-Columbian site.
 Iximche╩╝ is a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican archaeological site in the western highlands of Guatemala. Iximche, meaning "the city," was capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom from 1470 until its abandonment in 1524. The site included pyramid-temples, palaces and Mesoamerican ballcourts.
WE LOVED seeing families and generations strolling, admiring the ruins. Few people have cell phones. It's nice to see teen-agers taking time to visit and greet one another. This is a pattern we observe in relatively poor countries, a lesson perhaps.
We saw happy people, in a country struggling with development, trying desperately to improve infant, child and maternal health, malnutrition,
A young, pretty Guatemalan girl
awaits her school bus.
literacy, and contraceptive awareness. Catholicism is the major religion and volunteers are teaching birth control. 
 THE PEOPLE of today mirror their ancestors of long ago in many ways: strong, capable, friendly, smart.  They  cultivate fields and farm in ancient ways, and greet the modern visitor with kindness, sharing their remarkable heritage.

Color, class and character mark Palm Springs, where Hollywood stars flocked
in the day. Now, a diverse group of people live and visit this lovely desert town.
UP NEXT: Tucked neatly beneath the San Bernardino Mountain Range in the beautiful Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, California, offers world class art museums, fabulous entertainment including Oscar's, a lively female impersonator venue, a wide array of fine eateries, casinos, 100-plus golf courses and plenty of indoor and outdoor activity.  A two-part series begins next Friday. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn, live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on art, music, nature, travel, family and more:


  1. Enjoyed this very much. Beautiful people in Central America. You captured the spirit and the beauty.

  2. Delighted to know more about the Mayan ruins in this country. Each country puts a different spin on the culture..... I enjoyed reading about your adventure there.

  3. Love the artful way you weave your personal views with history and discovery.

  4. Oregon AnthropologistsFebruary 19, 2020 at 2:55 PM

    Have seen Mayan ruins in other parts of the world...didn't realize it was such a large part of Guatemalan history and culture. Good read and great photos.