Mayan City of Yaxchilán in Mexico
In every culture, there are uncountable legends about the end of the world, the apocalypse and the extinction of humankind. And if we focus on the Mayan tradition, the most common legend is the one about a cosmic tail that announces the end of times. Nevertheless, this is not what the inhabitants of the Mayan city of Yaxchilán have believed for two centuries. For the Lacandones, the true prophecy is actually related with one of their governors.
This city’s rise occurred during the Classic Mayan Period between 300 and 900 A.D., and one of its most powerful rulers was Pájaro-Jaguar IV who built some of the most impressive structures of his time. In fact, as a great leader, he also knew all the secrets of the Chiapanecan jungle where nowadays you can still visit the remains of the ancient city –due to the fact that the archaeological site is located at the source of the Usumacinta River, in the Mexican territory, you can only reach it by boat from Frontera Corozal, a town located about 32km away from Yaxchilán.
Following the steps of the prophecy, even if you can take different routes to visit the site, DINKtravelers recommends that you start your ascent by climbing up the trail that leads to the small acropolis. Continue walking toward the 33rd building and pay close attention because it is a fine example of the characteristic architecture of Yaxchilán with its crestings and a stairway with hieroglyphs. Once inside the building you will find a decapitated sculpture of Pájaro-Jaguar IV and it’s precisely that image that inspired the apocalyptic legend of the Lacandones…
The Mayan Legend of Yaxchilan
They believed that if the head were ever returned to the sculpture’s body, celestial jaguars, the animals that represent the powerful ancient ruler, would bring upon us a terrible devastation. For that reason, the natives asked some archaeologists who dug the site in the nineteenth century never to bring together the sculpture’s head and body.
If you stand with your back to the magnificent structure that rises high above the rest of the plaza which lies near the river, you’ll have an impressive view of the acropolis that will help you imagine what the great domains of Pájaro-Jaguar IV might have looked like. And this sensation of awe will become even stronger if you stand on the stairway that leads to the plaza and stop for a moment, close your eyes and breathe in deeply trying to hear the jungle’s whispers. Those monuments and landscapes that portray ancient voices will remind you that there are legends far beyond our understanding that perhaps we shouldn’t question.
The Sacred Ceiba Tree
When you visit Yaxchilán, try to spot a ceiba tree rising above the acropolis. These trees that are usually over 60 meters tall (195 ft.) were sacred for the Mayan.