Mayan temples, clay pigeons and military checkpoints

Dear reader, I should not still be awake, but I did order a café Americano at our 9:30 dinner this evening! I have missed a couple of our days which I still plan to catch you up on, but I don’t want to add today to the mix.  We had another full schedule today as we drove to a Mayan archeological site in Tenam Puente (sorry, too tired to describe here-you will get pictures!), ate lunch in Comitan and visited a potter.

On our way out of San Cristobal we drove past a huge sculpture of a woman potter who was forming a clay pigeon.  Her name is Doña Juliana and she is known and honored in all of Mexico for her pottery.  I thought the statue was really cool and so I snapped a photo of it through the van window.  The clay pigeons (or doves if you wish) are well known and we see them all over.  After our lunch in Comitan we drove to Amatenango and I heard our guide ask a pedestrian which house was Doña Juliana’s.  We were only a couple doors away.  The vans parked and we all got out and were invited right into the courtyard of Doña Juliana’s home! There she was, sitting on her porch working embroidery with a spool of red thread, surrounded by family and piles of clay pigeons and pots and jaguars.  This was a breathtaking moment. We had popped in on what seemed to be a family activity of husking black beans.  Before we left town we visited the church and then walked down to the main road and shopped for pottery.  I chose a jaguar.

We traveled in two vans today on the Pan American highway, the main tourist route through Mexico.  We passed through two checkpoints during the trip.  One of the checkpoints was the Federal Police and the other was a military checkpoint.  At both stops the van I was in was pulled over.  At the first one, the driver was asked for papers and identification then asked to get out of the van.  The officer walked the driver away from our van a ways  and we watched them talk.  All of us were rather quiet and were holding our breath slightly as we all knew that Erin had left her passport at the hotel.  It was a relief to see the officer hand the paperwork back to the driver and they walked back to the van.  The driver was instructed to open the back door of the van.  The officer looked in at all of us and asked, “Habla espanol o ingles?” We all murmured, “Ingles.”  He chuckled then the driver closed the back end and was allowed to get back in the vehicle and off we went.

The second stop went similarly but this time the van was essentially surrounded by young men in army fatigues who held rifles. This time the driver was only asked to get out and open the back.  We were off again in no time and again, Erin breathed a big sigh of relief.  When we were finally back at the hotel I asked our guide what the trouble had been.  It seems that these vans are licensed to travel with tourists between particular cities that are painted on the front and back of the van.  The van we were in was licensed between San Cristobal and Ocosingo.  When the people at the checkpoint saw it they pulled us over to find out why that van would be on that road.  I believe we were let through with no consequences.  For that I am thankful!

OK, I do believe I can retire with no interruption from the café I had.  Tomorrow some of us are going on a walk in the cloud forest and then we will meet a woman who will give us some insight into Mayan spirituality.

Hasta mañana!

-Déadra

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2 thoughts on “Mayan temples, clay pigeons and military checkpoints

  1. Military check points are a harsh, non-negotiable reminder of our vulnerability. Thank you for sharing your experiences of transformed and transforming interactions on your journey – both outer and inner. Blessings on your way.

  2. So glad that the checkpoints weren’t really serious problems! Here’s hoping any other checkpoints y’all might need to get through during the rest of your trip won’t be big problems either!

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