Uxmal & Mexico’s Yucatán

uxmal

After waking up early to the sounds of what might possibly be the loudest hostel in Mérida, or all of Mexico for that matter, we headed about an hour south of the city to the ruins of Uxmal.  Once the capital of an ancient Maya civilization located in the Yucatán’s Puuc region, Uxmal flourished from 600-900 A.D.  It’s puuc-style architecture features many intricate carvings and geometric mosaics.  Stucco masks depicting the rain god Chac adorn many of the buildings, not surprising given the scarcity of water in this region.  It is speculated that these severe drought conditions led to the abandonment of the site around 900 A.D.  Today, Uxmal is home to a population of enormous iguanas, some nearly the size of a small dog.  They’re everywhere, sunning themselves on the ancient structures and it’s possible to get within a few feet of the giant creatures before they retreat back into hiding.

Unlike many of the ruins we have visited, Uxmal has some very modern facilities, several gift shops, fancy hotels, restaurants and even a gormet coffee stand on site.  I almost fell over when the can of soda I asked for cost twenty pesos.  Not to mention the high cost of admission and the fact that bus travel in the region can be as much as two or three times the cost of a similar ride in Oaxaca or Chiapas.  Tourism is big business in the Yucatán and this region of Mexico is much different from the Mexico to which I had become accustomed.  Absent are the packs of homeless dogs, there aren’t children working in the streets or begging for money, buildings are free of grafitti, no one is protesting anything and I can hardly remember what it’s like to be awoken by the sound of firecrackers at 4 a.m.  Instead fancy tour buses make brief stops at all of the attractions, officers are on hand to assure everyone makes it across the streets safely and everyone speaks a little bit of English (or at least they claim that they do).

Travel is expensive in the Yucatán and apparently many Mexicans cannot afford the higher costs.  Unfortunately, in our experience so far, it’s primarily foreigners marveling at Mexico’s most impressive sights.  Besides the site employees, Carlos was the only Mexican national at Uxmal and he’s been the only Mexican on several of the buses we’ve taken.  Back in Mérida our hostel bed is costing us nearly 50% more than what we’re used to paying for a hotel room with a private bath and cable TV.  Most of the other backpackers that have come through our hostel seem to do as we are doing and pass through this region of the country relatively quickly.  In fact, the majority of people packed up and took the first bus out of the city as soon as Carnaval ended.

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