Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, June 27, 2010, by Janet Phelan


As I stepped down off the bus at the entrance to Chichen Itza, the sky unfurled an apron of rain.  It has rained every afternoon at least for the last week, when I landed in the Yucatan.  I paid my entrance fee and pushed through the turnstile into a veritable Disneyland of culture-seekers and pirates, hawking plastic jaguars on key chains and fluorescent long-dead ceramic gods, ripe for hanging from a rear view mirror.

There was majesty here once, but it is obscured now, folded back into itself, dormant and cocooned. The stones will not speak.  The sheer weight of decades of the curious filing past with Nikons and fair-headed children in tow has not diminished the indignity of having withstood the onslaught of European colonization. Better to have crumbled into undecipherable dust than to endure the daily parade of vacationers.

An instructional tablet announces that the bas relief stonework depicts jaguars and warriors eating hearts.  My mind leaps across thousands of miles to your unmarked graveside, where you were quickly and furtively stuffed in the ground before I could discover that you had died. The dreams had already started–you being eaten alive, you being dissected with a geneticist´s antiseptic curiosity and swabbed onto slides for categorizing and filing away.  When it actually happened, I should have been prepared. Standing in the rain now, I wonder–again–if they devoured your heart.

Is that the secret? That the old invocations, the subterranean channel running darkly through history, has never been obliterated, only fancied up to appear contemporary and respectable?  Flesh-eaters and graverobbers roam the courthouses of our democratic societies, while those sitting in the courtroom pews are only suckered in to their eventual dismemberment by dapper dark sutis with briefcases and polysyllabic lingo.

I´m trampling on some kind of artifact of some kind of state of suspended metaphysic.  The man in the coat room told me that the secrets were destroyed by the conquistadores, that there is nothing left of the sacraments. The Mayans were experimenting with time and dimensions and all that we have left, he said, are a pile of stones and the prophecies, unfurling now in relentless succession.

I walk through the Colonnade, my hand lingering on the stones.  It is the only way I know to say I was here, I walked through these places, I saw clearly and without fear the impetus and direction of intended impact and I cried out a warning and I was helpless to change it, any of it and I left behind a few moist molecules in the cracks between the rocks before I walked out into the deluge and was gone forever.

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