Ladino, as Guatemalans call a mestizo or citizen of mixed European and aboriginal blood, is the live expression of the strong influences that Spanish colonialism had integrated with the Native American culture. In spite of this though, a great number of Guatemala’s population is composed of its indigenous people, the Maya. They are people of great mystery that has unceasingly fueled the imaginations of novelists and archaeologists.
The Maya is recognized for being the only known civilization that had written language even before Columbus set foot on the virgin forests and seas of America. Its art, architecture, and systems of mathematical and astronomical nature were quite sophisticated and were established as early as 2000 BC. Its cities were at their highest and grandest state as late as AD 900. Science fiction writers insinuate that the level of sophistication attained by the Maya civilization were because its people were descendants of a highly-advanced civilization from outer space that came to earth and later left after establishing a nucleus of their own system. The decline and abandonment of the Mayan cities that led to its collapse are quite mystifying to archaeologists and laymen alike. Some say it was because of uncontrolled population growth, invasion by foreigners that pillaged its beauty, and the destruction of trade routes. Some say that it could have been caused by sudden climate changes and the overuse of its natural food resources that brought about famine. Whatever the cause was of the collapse, the traces of the once grand civilization are still visible in Guatemala.
Tikal was built by the Maya around 600 BC and became its capital for politics, science, and religion for more than a thousand years. In honor of deceased kings, pyramids were built together with buildings for the Maya government, royalty abodes, and food storage that total to more than four thousand. Currently this city is inhabited by spider monkeys, brocket deers, and some jaguars. Its exploration and restoration is a great adventure and insight to the colorful past of Guatemala.
Another city of fame is Copán. It was built in 1775 and served as center for cosmic and astrological rites of the Maya. There is so much to admire in this city from the altars, ball courts, and intricately designed stairs with hieroglyphics to the amazing Maya stelae. In Quiriguá, Izabal another observatory could be found. It has the tallest stele that is thirty-five feet in height. In Calakmul, you get to experience 117 stelae that usually symbolize ancient Maya rules and their consorts and some murals that depict the lives of the royalty.
In Guatemala, you will see the step pyramids that were of great significance to the ancient Maya. They bore religious temples on their tops and looked like ziggurats. In fact it is in Guatemala where one could find the largest pyramid in the world, the La Danta. It is seventy-nine meters in height and 2.8 million cubic meters in volume. In Belize, you would find the Temple of the Masonry Altars which has a height of 16 meters.
Traveling to this portal and understanding the mystic of the Maya is not expensive. Travelers may fly from any major airport in the world and get to avail discounts that are given to groups and families. Transfers from one location to another is convenient because of the availability of the lancha or small boats. Land transport services, tour buses, or vans are readily available at reasonable and negotiable rates.