A visit to Yucatan

“  The astonishing Maya
  called the starry firmament
  the corn’s sacred gold
  scattered by the wind–
  into the green night
  of Uxmal and Chichen Itza–
  to sate the ravenous hunger
  of a false, lifeless god
  arms outstretched in cruciform

  The newborn Void,

  salt and blood strewn over memory.” (Cluny, Claude Michel)

Translations from the French
By Daniel Simon


Last week I had the opportunity to visit Merida, Mexico for a studio trip about social housing. Despite having a strict schedule every day that focused on housing architecture, I had the space to immerse myself into the Mayan culture for nine days. I want to clarify that talking about the Mayan culture is very much talking about a culture that is alive, and that has adapted to different epochs through time.


It is very common to think of the Mayan culture as something from the past that can only be reminded by ruins. However when you visit Yucatan it is delightful to see the colors and flavours that are present in the everyday life of the people that inhabit this area.


Uxmal. Photo credits: Alica Meza

On of the places that I visited was Uxmal. Uxmal is an UNESCO world heritage site, and among other Mayan cities it is considered one of them better preserved cities of the Puuc Region.  Puuc Region refers to souther region that encompances a range of hills. The Puuc region is special because most of the Yucatan terrain is flat. Something that caught my eye from Uxmal is that in comparison to other Mayan cities like Chichen Itza, this city has a more intimate human scale, where perhaps it facilitated a social atmosphere where mayans could have enjoyed their xocholat beverages.



Uxmal. Photo credits: Alica Meza

Although the most common thing to enjoy today chocolate today even in Yucatan is in the form of a chocolate bar, there is a museum called “Choco-story” in Uxmal where you can have interactive tours where you can learn about the Chocolate history and have tastings of the traditional chocolate beverages that we talked about in class.

In a way it is interesting to see how the european assimilation and transformation of Chocolate has made its way back to its origins. And as we tasted the different chocolates in class, today a lot of the chocolate flavor that we associate our paladar with is very closely related to the sugar flavor. Chocolate is one of the earliest form of globalization if we think it from an economic perspective.


In another hand, a lot of the ingredients that we talked about in class that were combined with cacao are present in the everyday diet of the people from Yucatan. Some of the most evident ones are corn, vanilla, and achiote.



Cochinita Pibil. Photo credits: Alica Meza

Achiote is a natural red condiment that comes from the Bixa orellana tree. A paste is extracted from the pulp around the seeds. Achiote is a key ingredient for of of Yucatan’s most traditional dish, cochinita pibil, which is a pulled pork that is traditionally cooked in an earth oven for several hours.


Uxmal. Photo credits: Alica Meza

Yucatan is a testimony the constant evolution that cacao has given to the culinary world. During my trip, it was interesting to see how much of what we have learned so far in class still present today in the region.







Consulted and cited works:


Cluny, Claude Michel. “Uxmal.” World Literature Today 79.2 (2005): 60. Biography in Context. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.


“Choco-story” Web. 20 Feb. 2016. <http://www.choco-storymexico.com/uxmal/index_en.php&gt;
“Uxmal.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Britannica Academic. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2016. <http://academic.eb.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/EBchecked/topic/620988/Uxmal>.



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