The Riviera Maya is a multicultural area that has successfully blended many different cultures in one area. It has been labeled cosmopolitan to describe this unique blend, celebrating the mixture of the original roots of the area with the global influences that shape the community.
Our cultural interests lie in exploring the roots of the area, the influence of the Maya, their beliefs and rituals, their continued struggle to work with or be conquered by others. The history is fascinating and tracing the history through the roads, pueblos, and museums is what we love to explore and share.
There are 5 areas of cultural interest that excites us. As we discover new things, we also discover new stories, new roads and new people. It seems never-ending and keeps us engaged in the area, not just the Riviera Maya, but the Costa Maya and Yucatan. We have made a list of our cultural favorites, and in some cases cultural areas. As we stumbles upon Mayan villages many years ago, what we are finding is the attention paid to historical routes in the area where visitors and local can explore the area and learn more about the history of the Maya, the environment and the area.
Mayan ruins have always been a fascination of ours. Historically, they are a treat, architecturally an amazement. With so many Mayan ruins to visit, you can keep occupied for a very long time. What we love about the ruins is the close proximity to the Riviera Maya, and the hours of discovery you can enjoy. ON first glance the ruins are a great afternoon or morning tour, on second and third glance, the details of the history, the buildings and the location can pull you in for weeks and weeks. We never visit a Mayan ruin just once, we continue to return to see yet something else, or study the detail of one building, or take a look at where buildings are positioned so we understand why these cities were built as they were.
While increasing our fascination of the Mayan culture through regular visits to the ruins, we started to participate in some local ceremonies and rituals conducted by elders, shamans and interested parties. We started with Equinox ceremonies at Coba, Chichen Itza and Tulum. This then moved into temazcal steam lodges, spiritual ceremonies held by Charlie in Tulum, and the list goes on. We wish there was a schedule of ceremonies that one could publicize or check, but alas there is not. We hear about ceremonies through word of mouth, and participate when we can. As we hear about them we will share them.
Local markets are not in abundance in the Riviera Maya, which is unfortunate. But the Yucatan does have local markets that are worth seeing if you are up for a road trip. Merida, Valladolid and Fellipe Carillo Puerto all have local municipal markets that bring us up to speed on contemporary Maya. Markets are full of food, clothing, crafts and household items. We just recently bought some gourd bowls for the house at a local market, natural bowls still used in Mayan households for drinks and food. The Maya still live a very natural life that centers around natural resources, organic, environment and respect for the earth. Going to a local market shows you that there is little deviation from this lifestyle. As other cultures try to come back to the roots of living naturally, sustainably and gracefully, the Mayas have continued this path since the start of time. I think we can learn a lot from them. We know we have.
Whether you are staying or living in Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Puerto Morelos, Tulum or Puerto Aventuras, strolling through residential areas is a source of happiness for us. We are not talking about strolling down 5th Ave or along the beach in Akumal. We are talking about residential neighbourhoods where families and residents live. On our hot summer nights, families gather on their front porches, on the street, in local parks. The activity is outside and a great neighborhood scene. Children are playing, parents are talking, people are fixing things, others are eating their evening snack (dinner is served at lunch in the Mexican culture) or just hanging in a hammock relaxing. This is the Mexico we love and love to be a part of. Taking a walk, or grabbing some tacos on the back streets in the pueblos open you up to the reality of local culture where people are playing, laughing and sharing. It is real and it is beautiful.
There are new historical routes popping up throughout the Yucatan that trace a story. The two we love are the Puuc Route and the Church route (ruta de las iglesias) in the Zona Maya. The Puuc route is a wonderful road trip that is a combination of Mayan ruins, cenotes, haciendas, small villages and of course food! If you start out in Merida this is a possible day trip. If you are coming from the Riviera Maya, you can break this trip up into smaller routes and enjoy the sites over a few days. This is a great way to enjoy the beaches of the Riviera Maya combined with some sights and history of the Maya.
The Church route is a wonderful day trip or two where you can see Roman Catholic churches in small villages to the south. The history of church building, religious conversion and the influence (to be nice) of the Spanish on the Maya, is a fascinating yet horrific story. What you will find is some abandoned churches that were partially destroyed during the Caste War, functioning churches, and some interesting architecture that shows the Spanish influence in Mayan villages. If you are up to snuff on the history of the Yucatan you will find this fascinating. If you want to dive deeper into the history of the area, this is a great place to start. The Church route can be done in a day, but if you want to cover all of it, take a few little day trips and dig a little deeper without being rushed.
Sure we love the beaches of the Riviera Maya, the cenotes, the sea, the flora and fauna, but our passion is the cultural of the area. The sea and cenotes are a very large part of Mayan culture, but getting into the back roads, the depths of the Mayan history and seeing for ourselves the location of the Caste War, colonial cities and the influence of water on Mayan settlements is the highlight of the area.
Enjoy investigating the area, the treasures of the Maya, the outside influences that are shaping the area and how the history of the area shapes contemporary culture. It is fascinating and a road less travelled in the area.