November 2001 #1 Newsletter from
"On This Date in North American Indian History"
by Phil Konstantin
Copyright © Phil Konstantin (1996-2002)

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                November 2001 Newsletter - Part 1 
                Phil Konstantin 
  beginning of the newsletter


  For those of you who many have signed up for the newsletter recently, 
  this edition will be different than my normal fare.

  I made it back from Mexico yesterday. It was an amazing, informative, 
  exciting, funny, sad, exhilerating, tiring, arduous, and fastinating 

  Only one of my intended destinations was missed: San Cristobal de las 
  Casas. I also visited several more places that I thougt I would. I 
  purchased a two week "Buspass" which allowed me to travel on most of the 
  routes of four different (although, associated) bus companies. Due to 
  computer probelms, I could not use the pass one day, and so I decided 
  not to go to San Cristobal. Indirectly, this made it easier for me to 
  visit the ruins at Tikal in Guatemala.

  My complete trip covered lot of territory. I also took over 800 photos 
  with my digital camera. A few of you have kept up with the pictures I 
  uploaded while I was on the road. Since I got back last night, I have 
  made a few modifications to the website I created to show these photos. 
  I continue to edit that page for some time. In any case, you can see the 
  photos I took starting on this website:

  The first thing I have done is to figure out what pictures appear on 
  which page. Here is a quick guide:

  You can find pictures of the following places (ruins in CAPS) on the 
  following pages:
  Mexico City - Page 1
  TEOTIHUACAN - Pages 2 & 3
  Mexican National Anthropology Museum- Pages 3, 4, 5 & 6
  Oaxaca - Page 8
  MONTE (MOUNT) ALBAN - Pages 6, 7 & 8
  Santa Maria el Tule ánd ´El Arbol´ (The Tree) - Page 8
  MITLA - Pages 8, 9 & 10
  YAGUL - Pages 10 & 11
  PALENQUE - Pages 11 & 12
  BONAMPAK - Pages 12 & 13
  YAXCHILAN - Pages 13, 14 & 15
  Lancondon Maya Indian village - Pages 15 & 16
  Usumacinta River on the Mexico-Guatemala border - page 16
  Flores, Guatemala - Page 16 & 19
  TIKAL - Pages 16, 17, 18 & 19
  Belize - Page 19
  Campeche - Pages 19 & 20
  EDZNA - Pages 20, 21, 22, 23 & 24
  Veracruz - Page 24
  Texolo Falls - Page 24
  Xalapa Museum of Anthropology - Page 24, 25, 26, 27 & 28
  "Popo" and "Itza" volcanoes - Page 28

  At the bottom of each page is a link to the next page. You can skip to 
  any other page just by modifying the address at the top of your browser. 

  For example, the first page is at:

  Page 2 is at:

  Page 10 is at:

  Page 25 is at:

  Just change the number after mexico, to go to the page of that number.


  I will tell you a bit about each of the places I visited.

  Mexico City: BIG! The current population is estimated at 20,000,000. It 
  is an interesting place. For those of you who have never visited Mexico, 
  the vast majority of its people are poor. This is very evident by the 
  housing. Most of the housing is made of concrete and would not meet the 
  minimum building codes in the USA. Most of the buildings look old, even 
  the new ones. Some buildings (not the ruins) date from as far back as 
  the 1500s. There is some very interestig architecture. The city also 
  covers a large physical area. I started and ended my trip in Mexico 
  City. It was warm when I arrived, and cool when I returned. As I have 
  mentioned in other newsletters and websites, I have always found 
  Mexicans to be very warm, friendly and helpful people. Mexico City was 
  no different. One thing I did notice was the truly large number of armed 
  officials all over the city. Many officers carried semi-automatic, long 
  barreled weapons. It would probably be the first thing you would notice 
  if you had never visited Mexico before. This is intended to prevent, as 
  well as to deal with potential problems. I did not see a single 
  demonstration (OK, I did see two guys carrying a sign in the park), 
  robbery, fight or any anti-civil activity during my time there. You can 
  find many museums, art galleries, restaurants, and other "upscale" 
  activities, as well. Mexico City is a part of Mexico's Federal District, 
  similar to Washington D.C. in the USA. It is often called D.F. 
  (Districto Federal) by the locals.

  TEOTIHUACAN: These "ruins" just north of Mexico City feature two very 
  large pyramids, and several other structures. The largest pyramid is 
  usually listed as the third largest pyramid (volume - size, etc.) in the 
  world. FYI, the largest is also in Mexico, the 2nd is in Egypt. To use a 
  mountaineering term, I am a bit of a "summit-bagger." So, I climbed to 
  the top of the largest "Pyramid of the Sun." The pyramid and the view 
  are both breathtaking. This is one of the few ruins in Mexico which can 
  be seem from many miles (or kilometers) away. There is also a nice 
  museum on the site.

  Mexican National Anthropology Museum: This facility in Mexico City is 
  divided into several different sections. Each section covers one of the 
  major tribal groups. Unfortunately, the Maya section was closed for 
  remodeling when I was there. In any case, it holds many of the 
  significant objects from sites all over Mexico. I have lots of photos 
  from here.

  Oaxaca (pronounced wah-ha-ka): Is a moderate sized city southeast of 
  Mexico City. It is the capital of the state of Oaxaca. As with most 
  Mexican cities, it has an impressive set of churches. It is the home to 
  many of Mexico's best chocolates and the alcoholic beverage caled 
  Mezcal. The Zocalo (town square) almost always seemed to have lots of 

  MONTE (MOUNT) ALBAN: This ancient ruin is located on the top of a hill 
  overlooking the city of Oaxaca. It contains many different buildings, 
  which are almost all on the same level. The views are extrordinary.

  Santa Maria el Tule ánd ´El Arbol´ (The Tree): According to some 
  sources, this tree is the largest "biomass" in the world. Having seen 
  the Sequoyah (named after the famed Cherokee) redwoods, I have might 
  doubts about this claim. Most sources agree that this one tree has the 
  largest diameter of any tree in North America, if not the world.

  MITLA: This set of ruins is southeast of Oaxaca. The village of the same 
  name is built around, and on, this group of buildings. The local church 
  is right in the middle of the ruins, and contains some of the original 
  building material. This site has a couple of tombs (yes, I took pictures 
  inside the tomb) and some very nice ornamental designs.

  YAGUL: This small group of ruins is between Oaxaca and Mitla. For most 
  of my visit. I was the only visitor here. Sopme sources say the 
  ballcourt here is the largest in Mesoamerica, second only to Chichen 
  Itza. While it was nice, It was not too big.

  PALENQUE: Palenque is in southeastern Mexico, in the state of Chiapas. 
  This was my second visit to this amazing place. It is in the foothills 
  and on the edge of the true jungle. It is considered to be one of the 
  four or five most significant Maya sites (Chichen Itza, Tikal, Copan, 
  etc.) by many people. This is a source of some argument, but all 
  classifications aside, it is a tremendous place.

  BONAMPAK: This small site is southeast of Palenque, near the Guatemala 
  border. It is quite remote. It is best known for its colorful murals. I 
  bought a small "all-inclusive tour" from Palenque to visit Bonampak, 
  Yaxchilan and to go to Tikal. There were eight other people in the 
  group: 2 Dutch, 2 Italians, 2 French and 2 Mexicans. Unfortunately, the 
  tour operator told several of us the admission was included in the tour. 
  The park operators said they had not been paid. We only had a short 
  period of time here. By the time this problem was resolved, I only had a 
  short period of time to visit this site. While I felt the murals, which 
  changed many people's ideas about the form of Maya artwork, were very 
  interesting, they were not as vivid as I had been led to believe. Don't 
  misunderstand this comment. It was well worth the visit. 

  YAXCHILAN: This was one of the best parts of my trip. If you were to 
  roll every Disney - Indian Jones jungle stereotype together and made the 
  real, this would describe Yaxchilan. After our small tour van stopped at 
  a roadside place to get a quick breakfast, we were joined by a group of 
  about twelve armed security personnel. One of them them road with us for 
  the rest of our trip in the van. There is still a significant outlaw 
  element in the area. To get to Yax, you have to take a narrow boat down 
  the Usumacinta River, which separates Mexcio and Guatemala. This almost 
  one hour trip shows you how remote this area is. We saw people in the 
  river scrubbing their laundry on washboards or on rocks. There were very 
  large, colorful iguanas, and a couple of caiman on the jungle lined 
  shore. The river is wide, dark brown, and had many small whirlpools. The 
  settings for the ruin were fascinating. One of the buildings had a maze 
  like internal corridor. There were bats and spiders as big as my hand 
  inside. The structures were quite ornate. We were soaked during the 
  return upriver trip by one of the frequent rains. If you want to have an 
  "adventure," I highly recommend visiting Yaxchilan.

  Lancondon Maya Indian village: After leaving Yaxchilan, the rest of the 
  small tour group I was with, returned to Palenque. I was dropped off in 
  the small Lancandon Maya (also known as the Winik) village of Lancanja 
  or Chan Sayab. They have electricity and small wooden houses (some of 
  the very few wooden homes I saw on my trip). There is a community 
  outhouse (it had been almost 35 years since I used a real pit outhouse 
  in the small town where my father grew up in Texas). The spiders in that 
  pit were very large, too. A small stream runs through the midle of the 
  village. And then there was the surrounding jungle. This is the true 
  rainforest jungle of southern Mexico. I rained during most of my stay 
  here. Well, it is the rain forest! My host was named Vicente. I later 
  saw him being interviewed on a TV travelog about Bonampak. His wife made 
  some of the best chicken I had on the trip.

  Flores, Guatemala: The border crossing from Mexico (Frontera Corozal) 
  was like most of those B movies you may have seen. The local soldiers 
  looked through all of my luggage. I carried some powdered Gatorade to 
  add to the local bottled water. They sniffed at that to make sure it 
  wasn't drugs. I did not take any pictures here. The soldiers did not 
  look like they would have appreciated it, and I did not want to flash an 
  expensive camera to some of the questionable folks watching.
  Then it was down the muddy riverbank for was another long boat ride up 
  the Usumacinta River. I spent some time in the Guatemala border town of 
  Bethel waiting for the bus to be ready to go inland. And then it was off 
  the the small island town of Flores on Lake Peten Itza. I found more 
  internet stores in this small town than anywhere else on my trip. There 
  are lots of foreign tourists here.

  TIKAL: Tikal is absolutely amazing. It is surrounded by dense jungle 
  growth. There have been almost 4,000 building discovered so far in the 
  area. The area is quite large. One of the local guides told me it would 
  take almost three days to really get a good sense of this very large 

  Belize: I only took two pictures while I traveled through Belize on my 
  way back to Mexico. I spent all of that time on the bus or the border 
  crossings. It was interesting to see most of the signs in English in 
  this former British territory (British Honduras). Belize City reminded 
  me of many small towns along the Gulf Coast in the USA.

  Campeche: This Mexican state capital city was once a walled fortress. 
  Many of those walls are still there. The old town is quite nice.

  EDZNA: This ruin is located southeast of Campeche. Its largest 
  structure, The Building of the Five Floors, rises above the surrounding 
  woods. For most of my stay here, I was the only tourist there. It is a 
  very interesting place. It had some interesting scultures and reliefs.

  Veracruz: Veracruz is a port city on the Gulf of Mexico. Many Americans 
  are not aware that the US invaded Veracruz twice. There are several 
  monuments to these battles in the city.

  Texolo Falls: I love waterfalls. This waterfall (two larger ones ad a 
  couple of much smaller ones) is located in the small town of Xico south 
  of Xalapa. If it looks familiar, it was used in both Romancing the Stone 
  and Clear and Present Danger. It was quite nice.

  Xalapa Museum of Anthropology: This often is considered to be the second 
  best anthropology museum in Mexico. I was very impressed. It has the 
  largest collection of those amazing giant Toltec heads. Just a note on 
  the name of the town. The locals use the indigenous spelling of Xalapa. 
  Whereas much of the rest of the country uses the Spanish spelling of 
  Jalapa. In either case, it is pronounced ha-la-pa, and it is the capital 
  of the state of Veracruz. It has a nice mountain setting and was much 
  cooler that Veracruz.

  "Popo" and "Izta" volcanoes: I am also facinated by volcanoes. Popo 
  catepetl and Iztaccihuatl are the two large vulcans between Mexico City 
  and Puebla. You pass just north of them traveling between these two 
  towns. I went to the small town of Amecameca to get a closer look. 
  Unfortunately, the cloud cover seldom cleared for long. During the 
  morning when I arrived, it was so cold, I could actually see my breath. 
  The view from the church which overlooks the town is quite beautiful. 

  It was quite a trip. I am glad I made it. I think this was the longest 
  period of time I have ever been on a vacation away from home. It may 
  take me a few days to recover. :-)

  If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them if I know the 
  answer, or have any comments.

  That's it for now.


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