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Mexico: Tulum – Last Stronghold of the Maya

December 8, 2009

When I visited Tulum in 1978, the site was largely unguarded and tourists were free to trample about the ruins, climb the “lighthouse” (which is now roped off), and even scramble into passageways to view the exquisitely-preserved murals.

Or course, with its proximity to Cancun and the so-called Mexican Riviera, herds of tourists now beset the site on a daily basis, and Tulum requires far more protection against the well-meaning crowds.

When the Spanish first entered the city, they noted that the lighthouse was panted white, and it appeared the structure had been built at the edge of the Caribbean as a beacon to warn approaching vessels from dangerous, shallow waters.

In their voyaging around Central America, the Spanish saw large sailing craft, filled with passengers and cargo, which they naturally looted, preceding our modern Somali pirates by several hundred years.  But heck, the Native Americans were not really human, so what harm was there in stealing all their possessions?

The Spanish considered Tulum as an affront to their European”civilization” and made short work of the city.  Traditional urban Mayan culture disappeared forever with its destruction.

Tulum was surrounded by an extensive wall, no doubt as a result of the internecine warfare that was endemic to the Mayan culture, but the defenses proved too weak to fend off the Europeans.  More the pity.  Here are a very few photos I have preserved of the site.

1) The great lighthouse in silhouette.  The beach on the near side wasn’t too shabby either

2) One of the principal temples

3) Scattered remnants

4) Away from the sea.  Traces of the wall that surrounded Tulum may still be seen

5) More obvious destruction

6) A view from above

7) Some solid bamboo barriers, apparently designed to keep the tourists out

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