Merida, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Monday, December 31, 2012

As the clock ticked ever closer to the end of the year (mind you, when doesn’t it?) we looking out upon the Mayan city of Uxmal (pronounced Oosh-mal), in darkness. Then, there was a burst of sound from the concealed speakers, streams of colour flashed up, illuminating the ancient structures that lay before us.

This was the beginning of a Light and Sound Show that was taking place on 31st December at the site. For nearly an hour, music boomed whilst the story of the city was told, brightening up the monuments of concern in time to the beat.

It was a little contrived, but meant we saw these intricate buildings in a completely new light. (I can’t believe I’ve just written that…)

Preceding this, in the daylight hours, our group had explored the city under the direction of Juan. As the only English-speaker in our posse, I had to make do with a limited self-translation, and embellishment from the props that he brought out along the way.

The Fun Facts for Uxmal therefore, are somewhat limited:

Fun Fact #19 – the main temple at Uxmal has five layers, each done in different styles to reflect the architecture of the time

Fun Fact #20 – the palaces were where the Mayans recorded the most important information they possessed (cosmology cycles etc), however only the highest in society could interpret it. Juan used the metaphor of a USB memory stick to pass on knowledge

Fun Fact #21 – the structures in ‘the Nunnery’ (see photo) were positioned precisely as to mark the equinoxes, but were also decorated to symbolise – sunrise: coming of life (birth, prosperity), sunset: coming of death (serpents, the Underworld)

In between the viewings of the site, our group sat down to dinner at the neighbouring restaurant. Of the 10 of us, 7 were Mexican, and 2 from Brazil. Over food I took the chance to practice my Spanish with someone on my level: a 5 year old boy. We exchanged names, ages, and football teams.

This roused the Brazilians.

Across the table we compared teams. The guy was Corinthians, and I explained my support for Flamengo after my visit to the Maracana stadium three years ago. “Carioca..” his wife jovially hissed, as their team (or at least they) are from Sao Paulo.

The Mexican Dad chimed up at this point and asked about the English football fans. He asked whether we had “chabos” (I think) – a set of diehard fans who go to every game, start the chants and generally represent their team. The closest description I could give him of an English version was for “hooligans”.

Conversation on football then continued, and I managed to kind of get by. Mr Brazil explained the history of football in his country, and how the Corinthians team was started by a former a British colony.

We then got onto other topics, and he said how he worked at the Bank of Brazil. After revealing that I had just graduated in Economics, he revelled in telling me how the country will prosper. “What about China, or India?” I asked, to which he responded, in a roundabout way, that their culture is too misaligned with the rest of the world (not respecting contracts etc) that they will struggle to integrate. Brazil, on the other hand, ‘is the country of the future’.

Once the L&S show was complete, (and that clock still ticking towards the end of the year..) our group were dropped back at our hotels/ hostels back in Merida.

By the time I got in, the countdown was just under two hours away.

Palaces by night

Palaces by day

Temples in background

Sat in the Nunnery by night

Main temple and guide