About 50 miles east of Merida is the Spanish colonial town and ancient Maya city of Izamal, where Franciscan monk Fray Diego de Landa built the largest convent in the Americans in the early 16th century. We came here to re-visit Izamal, take some pictures and see how things had changed since 1994 when we first visited. Izamal is full of history. The “San Antonio De Padua” convent sits on top of a former Mayan temple (Pop-hol-Chac) whose stone was stripped to build the convent. Another tremendous Maya temple mound, “Kinich-Kakmo” can be seen across the town square in the distance, hence the name, Izamal, the “City of Hills”.
At the foot of the convent’s entrance ladies sell candles in glass cups and miracle charms called “milagros” for offerings inside the convent, or as souvenirs.
Friar Landa is best known for his controversial burning of the Mayan Codicies which consisted of hundreds of parchment scripts full of glyphs recording virtually every aspect of Maya life; their customs, beliefs and daily activities. Landa later regretted the burning and made an effort to write down all that his Maya converts could remember about their former civilization while he added his own observations of the events that were changing their lives and would shape their future. The book he produced in 1566 – “Relación de Las Cosas de Yucatan” was translated to English, with notes by William Gates, and was released under the title “Yucatan, Before and After the Conquest” in 1978. It is fascinating and heart breaking at the same time and is still regarded as the best historical document on the Maya.
Izamal’s zocalo (town square) is a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. We bought some delicious cut-up mango in a cup and then wandered over to “Hecho a Mano”, a store that Kay had heard of and wanted to investigate. There we met Hector Garza, the owner who has been in business selling local folk art and crafts for years. He had quite an interesting collection of rare photographs, books, masks, hammocks, statues, figurines and many other collectibles.
Kay with the “festival fish” ornament, made to be worn around the waist in a dia del festival celebration, and a photo we bought at Hecho a Mano.
This building on the zocalo is where Hecho a Mano is located.
Check out some places to stay in the Yucatan and make your Loco Adventure last a few days. There is so much to see and do in the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula away from the beaches of the Riviera Maya.