Diego de Landa’s Relación de las cosas de Yucatán does not exist!

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Fray Diego de Landa Calderón (1524-1579) was a Franciscan priest born in Alcarreña de Cifuentes, Guadalajara, Spain, who traveled to Yucatan and became the asistente del guardián of Izamal in 1549.   In 1552, he was promoted to guardián and in 1561 promoted again to provincial of the province of Yucatan.   The following year, de Landa initiated an auto de fé in Maní, Yucatan, in which he famously gathered and burned all the Mayan codices he could get his hands on at the time.   The Mayas who were rounded up during the search for evidence that would incriminate them of the crime of continuing to secretly worship the old gods were all severally punished and tortured unmercifully.   Many were killed out-right, died during the torture, or committed suicide.   When the bishop of Yucatan, Francisco de Toral, heard of these proceedings, he complained about De Landa in a letter to the Spanish king, Felipe II.   De Landa, in turn, traveled to Spain in 1563 to defend himself of the bishop’s accusations, which he did successfully and was subsequently acquitted of any wrongdoing.   The torture was done in the name of God, after all.
While he was in Spain, De Landa wrote a document outlining his understanding and observations of the Mayan culture.   He may have planned on using it in his defense, or he may have planned on publishing it, but he ended up doing neither.   By 1566, De Landa stopped work on the manuscript.   The King had recently issued a decree forbidding the publication of books about superstitions and the manner in which the Indians of the New World lived, so that was that. ....CONTINUE READING

How Flemish Almost Became the Official Language of Cozumel

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In February, 1517, the Governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez, sent Francisco Hernández de Córdova on an expedition that resulted in the discovery of Peninsula of Yucatan.   During the expedition, Córdova captured two Maya near Cabo Catoche and later brought them back to Cuba with him to learn Spanish so they could act as interpreters on future voyages to the peninsula.   The Maya lived in Cuba for a year and as they learned the language, they began to tell the Spanish about the lands from which they were taken.   One of the things they explained to the Spanish, was that the most important places (in their way of thinking) in the land of the Maya was the Island of Cozumel, which the Spanish had not seen or visited up to that time. ....CONTINUE READING

Shadow on the stairs; A story of mass delusion

Today, the great pyramid at Chichén Itzá (known as El Castillo), is covered with a smooth and unbroken sheath of limestone blocks.   The stairways are also made up of finely-cut limestone and the balustrades are straight, square-edged, and well defined.   It is due to this sharp-edged veneer of stones and the arrow-straightness of the balustrade that the corner of the pyramid is able to cast its seven triangles of light and shadows on the side of the staircase during the spring and fall equinoxes. ....CONTINUE READING

The Myth of the German Submarine that Sank Full of Mercury on Chinchorro Bank

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Chinchorro’s main feature is the plenty of wrecks on its east side, the windward one.   In fact, the Mexican government has declared the bank a marine archaeological sanctuary.   The amount of wrecks varies according to the source, from 40 to a hundred.   The count would include a German submarine and several sunken treasures.” –ww.maradentrodiving.com ....CONTINUE READING

El Castillo and the Lighthouse Theory

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In 1985, I took part in the “Tulum Lighthouse Project,” a project of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) which was underwritten by the National Geographic Society and the Kempner Fund.  The project was the idea of Michael Creamer, an American who came up with the theory that the twin window/vent holes on the ocean-facing side of the building in Tulum known as “El Castillo” could act as a sort of range light system for Mayan canoes attempting to cross over the reef at night to land on the beach next to the building. ....CONTINUE READING

A Cozumel without Coconut Palms

Can you imagine a Cozumel with no Coconut palms?  I’m not referring to what might happen if the Red Palm Mite has its way.  This voracious pest (Raoiella indica, also known as Raoiella eugenia) originated in the area around India, Iran, Arabia, and Egypt then jumped the ocean and landed on Cozumel’s shores, where it is now decimating the coconut palms as well as other species of plants. ....CONTINUE READING

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