State of Yucatan: Chichen Itza

By Rosen, Fred | The Saturday Evening Post, October 1987 | Go to article overview

State of Yucatan: Chichen Itza


Rosen, Fred, The Saturday Evening Post


State of Yucatan: Chichen Itza

A crowd of Mexicans and Anglos at the Temple of the Jaguar edged forward, waiting for the mystical appearance of the ancient Mayan serpent god, Kukulcan (Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs). Many of these people had previously encountered the serpent god only in a 1982 film, in which Quetzalcoatl arrives in New York City to wreak havoc.

But as the sun set this past March 21, the first day of spring, Kukulcan would "appear' once again as he has for ten centuries in the ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, located in the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula. Scientists believe the structure's alignment and dimensions are linked with the movement of the sun and the measurement of time.

More than 30,000 people had gathered in front of El Castillo (Kukulcan) pyramid. At 4:30 p.m., the Mexican dancers who had been entertaining the crowd stopped. Everyone turned toward the pyramid, where Kukulcan was materializing.

The god's appearance began with one triangle of light after another on the side of the pyramid's staircase. When they linked up, the onlookers could clearly make out his long tail, then his body, edged in brilliant, yellow sunlight, slithering down the steps of the pyramid to link up with the serpent's head the Mayans had carved centuries ago in the bottom of the balustrade.

Photographers blazed away as the setting sun made Kukulcan's shape sharper and sharper. By 5:15, the sunlight began to wane. Kukulcan disappeared from the bottom up, one triangle of light, then another and another, until finally, he was gone.

Kukulcan made his latest appearance, as he does every year, on the first day of autumn. …

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