Hotel Villa Maya for dinner and a night's rest before embarking on the all-day journey back to Guatemala City. The hotel sits on the bank of the lagoon and provides a wonderful view of the water and abundant wildlife. We had arrived in the pitch-black jungle darkness the previous night, so this was our first (and last) sunset over the lagoon. It was worth the wait.
Ballet Folklórico, and is very similar to acts we have seen in Mexico. Despite their youth, the dancers were well-practiced and gave a beautiful show.
fault line system. The fault line running under the bridge marks the spot where the North and South American continents collide. This fault line system is the reason why southern Guatemala is thick with volcanoes and subject to massive earthquakes. The bridge was a little bumpy, but fortunately nothing else rocked us as we crossed.
Rio Dulce (the "Sweet River") empties Lago Izabal and runs to the Caribbean in southeastern Guatemala. Sailboaters travel up the river to Lago Isabal, just as pirates used to during the 16th-18th Centuries. A small fort still stands where the river joins the lake, to protect what used to be an important colonial trade point. Our tour was originally scheduled to stop here on the way to Tikal, but a lengthy labor dispute on the highway prevented this. The town of Fronteras, sitting at one end of the bridge spanning the river, is an important vegetable market for the local area. Many Maya farmers still paddle their product to the market in dugout canoes called cayucos.
1954 CIA coup d'etat that ousted a democratically elected government and installed a brutal military junta that eventually murdered 200,000 people, most of them innocent Maya. United Fruit banana groves surround Quiriguá on all sides. To the company's credit, they created an archaeological zone around the ruins when they bought the land more than 100 years ago.
The Great Plaza of Quiriguá
Great Plaza is the northernmost of 3 plazas. It measures 325m (1,066 ft.) from north to south, and 150m (492 ft.) east to west. Above, you are looking north from the Acropolis, which lies on the southern end of the plaza. The embankment seen in the background below the trees marks the northern limit of the plaza. The embankment itself is one of the oldest features in Quiriguá. The tall palapa in the center foreground, and those in the background, were built to protect stelae and the other stone sculptures located here. This vast plaza was created late in Quiriguás history by the ruler Cauac Sky, just after he had won independence from the great Maya city of Copán, 48k (30 mi.) to the south. In fact, most of what can be seen in Quiriguá today was created during Cauac Sky's 61-year reign.
Ceiba trees have been sacred to the Maya from the earliest times, representing the connection between the underworld (the roots) and heaven (the canopy). In this photo, you are looking south toward the Acropolis. Cauac Sky created his huge plaza to display his power to the thousands of people who gathered here. However, the city's population was relatively small, raising many questions about where these throngs came from. Archaeologists speculate that Cauac Sky stitched together a political patchwork of alliances among other towns and cities around Quiriguá in his bid for independence from Copán. He would have used this plaza to bring together people not only from Quiriguá but from all the allied communities.
The Stelae of Quiriguá's Great Plaza