One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” — Henry Miller
About 800 or so years ago, Mayans built a walled city on the Yucatan Peninsula that today we call Tulum. The citizens of this fort-like town that stood on a scenic bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea were decimated by European diseases after a Spanish Expedition discovered the place in 1518.
Time and the elements reduced it to the ruins that today attracts hundreds of daily tourists. I was one of them a few years ago.
This journey back in time required an hour’s ride in a passenger ferry from Cozumel, followed by another hour’s ride in a bus to access the historic site. The day I took the tour, the water was exuberantly choppy, turning several of the passengers green.
The bus ride, however, was more gentle and flavored by the anecdotes of Angel, our tour guide. He filled our ears with tall tales of the Mayans, of which he was a descendent. He was an excellent press agent for his people, both those of ancient times and their kin who still live on the Yucatan Peninsula.
As I wandered among the ruins, ghosts from the past haunted my thoughts, their spirits floating through the air and hiding inside the cracks of the rock structures they built. What were these people really like, I wondered.
Walking back to our bus parked at the market plaza, where souvenir venders were loudly hawking their exotic wares – Angel had told us to wait to spend our money at a genuine Mayan gift shop that we would stop at on the ride back to the ferry – I sorta got an answer.
While I didn’t buy any souvenirs, I did pay to take the picture of two young Mayan boys dressed up as their ancient ancestors might have looked getting ready for battle – or a celebration.
These theatrical youths had found an ingenious way to support themselves. In this they were probably not all that different from the early Mayans. Or us. We all struggle to put foot on our tables and a roof over our heads as we search for a purpose to life and the secret to happiness.
It’s merely the methods of doing so that separate us from past generations and other cultures.