We have a tour to the El Tajin Ruins today. Our guide is Claire and she did a great job pointing out all the landmarks along the way. She lives in Mexico for the tourist season and returns to England during the summer months. She was quite a character and kept us laughing most of the time.
Our first sight was an ancient Mayan Lighthouse, a funnel-shaped structure, which served this fishing village along the coast from Tecolutla to Guadalupe. This had no resemblance at all to a traditional lighthouse that we're used to; we'll post a picture later.
We reached Papantla, a nice town on a hillside. This region is known for vanilla. A Franciscan Cathedral, founded by Cortez when he came to Veracruz, is built into the side of the hill and the Volador Monument sits atop the hill. (more on this below).
Our next stop was at the El Tajin Ruins, now a world heritage site. Surrounded by a jungle-like, tropical setting, El Tajin was a vast religious and political center for the Totonac people. Its heyday was between 800-1150 AD. It was then abandoned and re-discovered in the 1700's by the Spaniards. We had a guide who showed us the museum and 'toured' us through the site mock-up. Then, we were off to the ruins themselves and he explained each section in detail.
The word Tajin is Totonac for 'thunder', 'lightning', or 'hurricane'. The first plaza we entered was Plaza del Arroyo, with pyramids on four sides. Behind that was Plaza Menor, the ceremonial center with a low platform in the middle like an altar. A statue on the first level of another pyramid represents a thunder-and-rain god, especially important at El Tajin. Ball courts were important and the pelota ball game, played with a rubber ball and seven players on each team, was a ceremonial event in the lives of the Totonacs. It is reported the winner of a game, or perhaps the captain of the winning team, was a human sacrifice to the gods; the winner....because the gods deserved the best and strongest. A relief panel on a corner showed the ball players carrying out a post-game ceremonial sacrifice.
El Tajin's most iconic structure is the Pyramid of the Niches. It has 365 insets or niches, one for each day of the solar year.
We were able to climb atop one level and get an aerial view of the ruins.
After our ruins tour, we were treated to a performance by the Voladores de Papantla (the Papantla Fliers). This famous dance involves five "flying men" dressed in exotic costumes. With ropes attached to one leg, four of the men launch themselves backwards from the top of a 105-ft. pole (gave me vertigo just watching). The voladores then revolve slowly around the pole as the ropes unwind until they gracefully reach the ground. The fifth man stays on top and plays a haunting melody on a flute. Each flier circles the pole 13 times for a total of 52 revolutions, which coincides with the number of weeks in a modern calendar year. Originally, the dance was offered to the gods. Today, it's more a matter of economic survival with the performances aimed at the tourist venues. Either way, it was a spectacular sight and we were hugely impressed since climbing to these heights would not be our strong suit.
We had lunch at a local outdoor stand; Joe had a steak and I had shrimp cocktail. Then, we had time to walk around the museum again and spend a few minutes looking at the vendor stalls. Here, everything from water to beautifully embroidered garments was for sale and the price negotiable, of course. We just got a couple of T-shirts as souvenirs.
We boarded our bus and returned to the RV Park. We had dinner at home and took Foxy for a walk on the beach.