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History of the cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula.

For more than 2 thousand years the cenotes have been an important part of the Mayan culture; In a jungle territory where there are no rivers, waterfalls or lakes, the most important thing to survive is water.

Cenotes of Homún

These natural wells were essential in the development of the Mayan culture of the northern region, allowed the successful irrigation of corn that was the main source of food, the production of honey was possible thanks to the water from the cenotes that bees take to make that sweet mix and they were important places for sacrificial ceremonies.

Nowadays they are popularly used as natural spas; visited by tourists, divers and freedivers. To access them, they placed wooden stairs and other concrete constructions, adapting them to be visited without risk.

 

The cenotes and the Xib’al’ba (underworld).

One of the most curious uses that the Mayan culture gave to the cenotes was the human sacrifice, in the Mayan worldview the firm floor inhabited by humans represents the world, the heights in the sky the supra world and the subterranean under the firm ground as Underworld or world of the dead.

In the Mayan language Quiché the word Xibalbá (shib’aalb’a) interpreted as: hidden place, was used to name the underworld.

The death for this culture represented a long way between underground rivers that leads to the Xibalbá where the ancestors and dead gods lived, for them the death was a continuity of the life in another level and not a hellish punishment; in summary Xibalbá (shib’aalb’a) is the underworld in the pre-Hispanic Mayan worldview.


Cenotes in San Antonio Mulix
Cenotes of Cuzamá
Cenotes of Homún

Rituals and sacrifices in the cenotes.

The cenotes were spaces suitable for many rituals and sacrifices, the evidence that supports this theory was found by divers archaeologists; It consists of vessels, other highly decorated ceramics and human skeletons in good condition.

But … how do we know that these vessels, ceramics and humans did not accidentally fall into the cenote while trying to collect water or other accidents?

 

Fray Diego de Landa Calderón.

After the Spanish conquest in Yucatan (1541-1542), the one in charge of preaching the Catholic religion was the friar Diego de Landa Calderón, a missionary of the Franciscan order, who recounted in his writings how they threw alive people into the sacred cenote of Chichén Itzá.

This does not mean that all the cenotes have treasures of jade, gold, pots and human remains; for only the cenotes near ceremonial centers were used for sacrifices, rituals and offerings.

 

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YUCATÁN | Travel Guide 


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