Izamal will provide us a new flavor of adventure. We have been having a great time exploring the Mayan heritage of Yucatan. Based on the recommendation of our hotel’s waiter, we decide to visit his home town of Izamal. Izamal before the Spanish conquest was probably one of the biggest Mayan urban centers in the northern Yucatan. Known as the Yellow City and the City of Hills, Izamal has been continuously occupied throughout most of Mesoamerican chronology. This makes Izamal likely the oldest city in Yucatan. It thus promises to be historically significant as well as visually pleasing. And apparently we will not be without ruins either. Izamal is known as the City of Hills in reference to the remaining temples resembling artificial mountains.
The first observation of note is that the city is largely yellow in color. It is explained to us that this is in celebration of corn. Most of the city looks rather freshly painted, and this is indeed to case as the local populace gussied things up for a recent visit by the Pope.
One of the very first features we happen upon after finding a place to park is a statue of the Bishop Diego de Landa. This dour looking fellow played a rather significant role in the loss of Mayan culture. In his fanatical campaign against idolatry he burned almost all the Mayan manuscripts (codices), thereby loosing very valuable keys to Mayan script. (He eventually realized his error, and worked later toward creating a record of the Mayan writing system. He visited Izamal early in his campaign, and ordered the establishment of a church in place of the largest pyramid in the Yucatan. Further reading on Diego de Landa.
Central to the city’s layout is the Convento de San Antonio, a rather large church that was built on the site of the largest pyramid in the Yucatan. Thus the Spanish dominated the Mayan population. In fact, the church was built from the very stones of the pyramid. We have come by a guide for the morning at the entrance to the church. Once again, spreading the wealth pays off with interest in insight and information. While the priests are using the Mayan population to dissemble their temple and build the new church, the locals strategically place old stones into new places to continue to protect the people. The priests were completely unaware of the subterfuge.
Quite a bit more on this interesting church is offered on the Izamal Gallery page. Meanwhile, from the courtyard we can see quite a few Mayan ruins to explore, most notable of which is the Temple of Kinich Kokmo
Lots of transportation options are available around the city.
And never let a day of exploration go by unrewarded without a dip in a local cenote. This wondrous subterranean refreshment is called Chihuan and is just west of the town of Holca.
As usual, there are many more photos and lots more information about the buildings and adventures of Izamal to share, which can be found in the Izamal Gallery