Praying to a ceiba tree. Photo by Diario de Yucatan
Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco laid the first stone for a new museum/interactive exhibit of the Maya in Yaxcaba and pledged that when completed, it would house the treasures from the Sacred Well of Chichen Itza.
In a speech commemorating the event, the governor declared the new facility, called “Palacio de la Civilizacion Maya,” would be “como un Disneylandia, pero con cultura” (“like a Disneyland, but with culture”).
The facility will consist of six large rooms, one of which would be dedicated to the treasures from the Cenote Sagrado, the Sacred Well of Chichen Itza. The governor did not say exactly what treasures she meant, as the material taken from the well is spread around North America. A few valuable pieces are in the Museo de Antropologia in Merida, but the bulk of the valuable material, the gold and carved jades, are in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, in the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, and even in the Field Museum in Chicago.
Other rooms in the Palacio will be devoted to the Maya world and its environment, to “miniatures” that represent the Mexican culture, another devoted to the Maya religion, and finally a room of audio-visual exhibits. In the latter room, visitors will be able to interact with exhibits that will demonstrate Maya astronomy, enable them to virtually hunt a deer, or witness the sacrifice of a maiden into a cenote, the governor said.
As is typical with these sort of events, the governor had hundreds bussed in from the surrounding communities. Yaxcaba in the first half of the 19th century was one of the most prosperous cities in Yucatan, but today it is one of the poorest. The region had been devastated during the War of the Castes, one of the most successful indigenous revolts in North America. From 1847 until the turn of the century the Maya of the southeastern Yucatan Peninsula successfully rebelled against the Mexican government. After the war, the region surrounding Yaxcaba never fully recovered.
Earlier this year, the governor pledged that she would build a “Palacio de la Civilizacion Maya” at Yaxcaba. This museum was originally to be located at Chichen Itza, some 20 kilometers away as the crow flies, but more than 40 by car.
According to the governor, the “Palacio” will draw more than 500,000 additional tourists each year.
Before the governor’s speech, the site was blessed by a Maya priest, called a “h’men.” The facility will be located next to a cenote, and the governor made a symbolic offering to the cenote, which the ancient Maya believe was a portal to the underworld. She also said a prayer while touching a ceiba tree, also sacred to ancient Maya.
The first phase of two rooms of the Palacio will be completed in the next 18 months, the governor said.