Why haven't we risen up?

As we kept searching for a signal after the pyramids, I had a really interesting conversation with Ezequiel. It started off innocently enough, when Ezequiel asked me if I had any land in the US. I couldn't help but laugh and say, "No, its not like here... only the rich have land in the US."

He gave me a strange little "Hmm" that begged me to explain further.

As we walked on, I added "We never had Agrarian Reform in the US." Agrarian Reform is the term used in Mexico to describe the way land was taken from the rich and given to the (mostly indigenous) poor in the form of the Ejido system. About 70% of the land in Mexico is in ejidos. 20 de Noviembre, Ezequiel's ejido, is 25,000 hectares (61,770 acres) and is named for the date of the revolution.

A few minutes later, as we climbed a steep ravine, Ezequiel asked "But didn't the people get mad that they had no land?"

I tried my best, but there's no legitimate way to answer that question. I explained that we were capitalists, tried (delicately) to explain what we did, and still do, to the Native Americans, and mentioned the fact that Mexico's ejido system is very rare in the world.

"Well, we did have to fight a war for it."

"Yeah, I guess sometimes you have to fight a war."

I soon learned that Ezequiel was well versed in socio-economic literature, especially communism. Among the books he mentioned were in his library were Capital, several works by Marx and Lenin, biographies of Fidel Castro and Che Guevarra and others I can't remember.

We spent the rest of the day discussing the ideas in these books, and the way they had been smeared by dictators like Stalin and Mao.

We never did get more than a ghost signal from the King Vulture transmitter, though.


Rio Bec: My first real Mayan Ruins

All day we've been searching for the signal that will tell us where our Mayan Condor (King Vulture) is, enjoying the breathtaking landscapes, lush vegetation, and the epicness that comes from an ancient civilization hiding beneath the roots.

Absolutely nothing, however, could have prepared me for our next stop. I've managed to miss all the touristy ruins from Cancun to here, so I'd never seen an excavated, "real" Mayan ruin. Or climbed on top of one for that matter. The site has been dubbed "Rio Bec A" by archaeologists. The generic name does no justice, but its true name is unknown and probably will remain so forever.

Again we got no signal but by this point I had regressed from Eco-VolunTourist to VolunTourist to just Tourist. I was entranced. Ezequiel had helped excavate the site, which was formerly just a tree covered mound like any other, and told us a bit about the dig as we ate lunch.

We headed to the other major site, Rio Bec B, which is larger than Rio Bec and was discovered earlier, but somehow still managed to get "B" as its designation. It consists of two sites, one with two towers that looked suspiciously like a Christian Church, another smaller, less preserved site that was a mound the last time Mauro was in town.

Ezequiel told me about the false steps adornign the front face of both towers (you can kind of see them on the right one). "No one can climb steps that steep," he said reverently, motioning to the almost vertical pattern of steps coming off the wall.

As the Sun came out, Ezequiel spotted a little raptor nesting atop one of the towers (can you find it?). Pointing to the pixelated plus sign carvings below the bird, he explained their significance.

"Each of the indentations was a different color, representing a different direction. East was red, West was black, North was White, and South was Yellow. East was the direction of the rising sun, while West was where night and death began, the direction of the Underworld. The center was painted green to represent life. For the Mayans, the most important number was not four but five, the four directions and the center."

Mauro had read a little bit about the significance of his study animal in ancient Mayan mythology. The King Vulture was the bird of death, while the Wild Turkey was the bird of life.
"They've found depictions of the two birds fighting, their necks turning around each other."


Searching for a Signal

Ezequiel's been trying to track the King Vulture while Mauro and I were at Nuevo Becal, but hasn't been able to get a signal for days. Last time Mauro and I saw the bird, we watched it reach back and bite at the backpack-like straps keeping the radio transmitter on. No signal could mean a few things - the bird bit off the strap and dropped the transmitter in the water, the bird chewed on the transmitter and disabled it, or the King Vulture simply flew far outside the one to three kilometer range.

Mauro's hoping its the last one, so today we decided to visit all of the highest points we could reach. This gives us greater range on the radio reciever, and also makes for a great excuse to see some pretty epic landscapes.

I've been wanting to climb the ridge along the entrance road since I saw it on our first day in Ejido 20 de Noviembre, so I was pretty excited to do so today. The view from atop it is incredible (click on the picture to see it full size).

We heard nothing but static and a faint, possibly imaginary, pause in static once in a while. "Ghosts in the Machine" as Asimov would say.

We moved on, hopping on top of whatever hills we could find. Turns out except for the ridge, all other hills in this area are ancient Mayan Ruins. These piles of rock covered in trees show almost no sign of being Man Made. That is, until you notice many of the rocks are shaped like large bricks. But that's another story...