Puerto Chiapas, Mexico
Great port, facinating city and Mayan ruins all in one day.
I slept in the morning that we docked in Puerto Chiapas, and was pleasantly awoken by the sound of marimbas and trumpets. Going out onto the balcony, I was surprised to see a brightly costumed dance troupe breaking out some traditional dances on a beautifully red bricked dock below me as the ship tied to the dock. A nice start to the day, and it was fun to see everyone on the ship hanging over the railings of every floor, waving and clapping to the welcome delegation below. This was the first port that really “put up a fuss” for the cruise ship and I expect it only helped their tourism dollar influx for our visit.
An aside on cruising to Puerto Chiapas: This area of Mexico is one of the poorest and Puerto Chiapas decided to attract cruise-specific tourism to the area with an upgraded ship dock and tourism initiatives. We were the 1st cruise ship of the season to dock, their 1st since April when all the ships head up to Alaska. According to local statistics, cruisers spend approximately $100 per person, so $120,000 floated into Puerto Chiapas that day.
The port of Chiapas, while lovely and well kept, is little more than a craft market, restaurant and pool, so we took a tour which brought us to some of the ‘places of interest’ in the area. The trip started by bringing us into the nearby city of Tapachula for a visit to a museum dedicated to local archaeological finds. This area is known for the ruin of Izapa, which we would visit afterwards. The artifacts were fascinating and varied, but we didn’t have a chance to examine them in detail as myself with husband and son, Jason and Andy, were asked to be interviewed by a Southern Mexican news channel on our experience in the area as the 1st tourists visiting this fall. We were happy to say that we were having a great time and enjoying everything the area had to offer, although I’d rather not have to view what we all looked like, melting in the heat as we tried to understand the questions. After visiting the museum our group had a few minutes for shopping, which we spent in a local shoe store buying flip flops for my son with a sales clerk who was charmed by the huge size of his teenage feet, announcing “Grande! Grande!” as she dug through the pile of sandals for a big enough size.
The Izapa Ruins are considered a transitional area between ancient Olmec and Maya cultures, appears to be situated in the December solstice horizon, and is also the disputed location of where one of the Mayan Calendar may have been created (280 Day Calendar). Our guide Emilio was very enchanted by the lore of 2012 and spent most of the time at the ruins describing the potential upcoming end of the world to a spellbound elderly audience as they leaned against the ancient pyramids to listen. My family (in-laws, husband and son all together on this trip) all drifted away from the doomsday lecture to do our own exploring. My husband’s parents visited many ancient Mexican ruins with him as he grew up and Jason has since shared his fascination with ancient civilizations with me and our son. To have the three generations of ruins enthusiasts together at one site was a one-of-a-kind family experience.
All that being said, the Izapa ruins are both facinating and somewhat frustrating. Most of the sky viewing astrological stone pools and other artifacts have been removed to Mexico City, many areas and pyramids remain uncovered, and there is evidence that portions of the visible ruin has been ‘recreated for your viewing pleasure’, rather than keeping to the original site layout. The site is surrounded by jungle on two sides, and farms on the other two. I was frustrated that no one seems to know where the viewing pools were orginially located, and horrified to see that stones from the ruins had obviously been removed from their original sites to hold up leaning coconut palms. Jason explained that this is often the case with ruins around the region, but still tough to see for a ruins newbie like myself. This area feels like it has more stories to tell, and more questions to answer in the future.
On our way back to the ship we passed back through the port craft market and bought some local coffee and hand-made shirts. I nearly stepped on a memorial cross made out of flowers, quickly moved out of the way then was shocked to look up and see that it was part of a large memorial to Michael Jackson of all people. He’s everywhere, apparently. Funny end to an interesting day in Southern Mexico.
Next stop – Guatemala.
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