Archive for May, 2010

New Sport at Chichen Itza: Cliff Diving

May 31st, 2010 by ejalbright

Cenote Ik Kil, near Chichen Itza

A thousand years ago, Maya would throw people into the Cenote Sagrado, a giant sinkhole at Chichen Itza, as a sacrifice to the rain god Chaac. This Sunday, people will be diving into a cenote by their own free will.

The Cenote Ik Kil, some four kilometers southeast of Chichen Itza, will host the second event in the Red Bull Cliff Diving 2010 World Series. A dozen of the best cliff divers from around the world will come to Yucatan on Sunday and compete by taking turns performing acrobatic dives into the cenote.

Ik Kil, like many cenotes, is mostly underground. Divers will apparently start at the large hole at the top and then dive 39 meters to the fresh water below. Unlike the other events in the World Series, this one will not be set up for an audience, that is, there will be no grandstands. The only ones who will witness the dives will be the judges and any tourists that happen to be at the cenote at the time.

For more information about the event, visit the official website HERE.

Here’s a video about last year’s competition:

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When It Rains in Yucatan, It RAINS in Yucatan

May 26th, 2010 by ejalbright

During my recent visit to Yucatan I was caught in monsoon-like rains. More than one person said it was the worst flooding they had ever seen, and a friend recorded more than 4 inches of rain in only a few hours.

Here’s a video shot during the storm:

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Senator Calls for Government to Take Rest of Chichen Itza

May 25th, 2010 by ejalbright

A Yucatecan senator in the Mexican Congress wants the federal government to take the rest of Chichen Itza, that is all the property that was not purchased in March by the government of the state of Yucatan.

Senator Hugo Laviada Molina, a member of the PAN party, proposed earlier this month that INAH, the federal agency that oversees the ruins of Mexico, take by expropriation some 500 hectares owned by members of the Barbachano family.

This property includes the Mayaland Hotel, which the family built and has operated for 80 years, as well as the buildings of the Hacienda Chichen, which the family converted into a top class resort and spa. The family also owns the property upon which rests Chichen Viejo, a network of ruins that are not open to the public. The ruins of Chichen Viejo are owned by the people Mexico and in the care of INAH.

The PAN senator said he wants to take the property of the Barbachanos using “legal appraisal, accountability, respect for the law and proper handling of national resources,” stating this was not done with the sale of the archaeological zone to the PRI-party controlled State of Yucatan. Members of the PAN party, which recently lost several elections in Yucatan, have been openly critical of the Chichen sale. Senator Laviada Molina also called for Yucatan Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco (PRI) to make public the conditions, terms and amounts of the Chichen purchase, as well as the source of the money used.

The state agreed to pay the owner of the 83-hectare archaeological zone, Hans Jurgen Thies Barbachano, $220 million Mexician ($17.6 million US). This was after the federal government failed in its attempt to expropriate the property. The federal government’s official appraisal of all of Chichen Itza and surrounding lands owned by the Barbachano family and others, approximately 1,500 hectares (3,750 acres) was only $8 million Mexican (at the time approximately $500,000 US), which to slightly more than $100 US per acre.

For more information regarding Senator Laviada Molina’s statement, see the Diario de Yucatan article HERE.

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Fiesta at Hacienda Chichen Honors St. Isidro

May 24th, 2010 by ejalbright

The local cleric and acolytes carry the statue of St. Isidro from the Hacienda Chichen chapel.
The local cleric and acolytes carry the statue of St. Isidro from the Hacienda Chichen chapel. Photo by Michael Maurus.

I just returned from 10 days in the Yucatan, including some time spent around Chichen Itza. On May 15, the Hacienda Chichen holds a fiesta in honor of its patron saint, Isidro. The fiesta is held every spring during the planting season, when Maya in the area start their milpas (corn or maize fields). During the celebration, there are dances and a Mass to ask the higher powers for rain … but not too much.

Maya 'princesses,' in their traditional Maya huipile dresses, dance at the fiesta to honor St. Isidro.
Maya ‘princesses,’ in their traditional Maya huipile dresses, dance at the fiesta to honor St. Isidro. Photo by Michael Maurus.

As you will see in the short video that follows, the celebration combines a Catholic Mass (held in the ancient chapel on the hacienda grounds) with other activities that have perhaps an older origin.

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