Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ichmul, Yucatan

The following are jewels of the jungle we encountered on a short side trip from Peto to the town of Ichmul where you are even less likely to find tourists. The only things we found in Ichmul to buy were fresh corn tortillas and soft drinks.
Ichmul was and still is a garrisoned military outpost that dates back in time to the beginning of the 60 year Caste War that began in the 1840s.

This never finished church is a product of that war that doesn’t ever seem to go away. The above carved in stone message dates from the Mayan occupation here.
The church was never completed and what you see here is as far as construction ever went.
Read about Ichmul; Place of the Pyramids in Richard Perry’s book Mayan Missions pages 146 and 147. You will find the story of Ichmul fascinating and therefore there is no need for me to tell you more than to get the book and read it. It makes an excellent field guide.
This sleepy tiny town has little to show but the old and older because nothing of significance has happened here since the beginning of the Caste War that began in the 1840s when the town was abandoned completely. Only recently have people began to repopulate Ichmul.
This unfinished church with its ornate embellishments dates from the1800s when the famous Mayan sculptor Pascual Estrella created this now weather-worn artistry.
Surrounding Ichmul are literally thousands of undisturbed Mayan ruins in the jungle that are in the ever so slow process of being pulled down by the vegetation whose roots pry apart the stone work and bring it down. This unfinished church undoubtedly has had some care in the last two centuries or it too would be taking its first steps of returning to the earth.
Ghosts of this abandoned jungle town are silent now with more than two centuries of forsaken desertion.
Find out more about this relic called El Santuario in Richard Perry’s, Mayan Missions.
If you superstitiously believe in symbolism then take a look at this church tower with a vulture perched atop that was recently struck by lightning that sent large pieces of the dome exploding away. Is there a message here for us?
At Ichmul at least you don’t have to be bothered with hordes of tourists or anybody else. as we found out public transportation is limited but still very convenient.
Relics or monuments to the past Ichmul was stifled and abandoned for two-hundred years. Now a new highway is being blazed past town that is sure alter this tranquility.
These two cast iron cannons memorialize the 60 year Caste War that dispersed the town.
What is happening in Ichmul hasn’t changed much since the Caste War when the red military garrison building in the background was first occupied. As you can see the military is still here. These three soldiers are not as sinister as they appear. They were in fact quite friendly and jovial considering the fact that they were on a high alert because of drug gangs operating in the area. Everyone is a suspect in this type of environment and so we guarded our actions because we didn’t want our heads blown off.
The building on the left is the city municipal building where you as a stranded traveler can apply for lodging and the mayor will find you a roof to sleep under.
The afternoon became hot and eating options in Ichmul were nil, except for hot tortillas and thankfully we already had our fill of them.
Jane and I decided on a strategy of taking the first transportation out of town no matter which way it was headed as it had become too hot to bike and the road to dusty from construction work.
In a few minutes we were seated in air conditioned comfort and headed back to Peto.
At Peto we made a miraculous connection and in less than five minutes of our arrival there we were on another bus headed north to Ticul. For more, see our post Ticul to Abala, Yucatan

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