One pm at LACMA’s Brown auditorium, a small auditorium hidden in the basement of the bing center, Dr. Richard Hansen stood at the prepared podium for his presentation on El Mirador. Titled, “The Mirador basin: The cultural and natural legacy in the cradle of Maya civilization,” These presented slides of photos, videos, and maps, showed an in detail account of not only the architure of el mirador, but also the surrounding vegetation, wildlife, and upcoming plans for tourism.
Bella Guatemala helped to supply much of the photos and video footage for the evening including a slideshow of what Mr. Hansen described as the first freeway in the world. The Mayans were not only inventors of such sophisticated roadways but also the inventors of the number zero in mathematical equations. They lived in the tropics, creating Mayan pyramids at around 2600 B.C. Complexities of the building and how they were made still remain a mystery to this day. Built from poured lime stucco cement, these blocks would be incredibly heavy and built on top of one another until completion.
Despite the success that Mayans had at one time, a thriving civilization of trade and great cultural development, the site was abandoned around 130 AD. There is evidence of a possible drought, or too much deforested limestone for their pyramids is another suggested reason. This is evident by the way that buildings changed, foundations becoming less limestone as it took a lot of man power and wood.
These well preserved structures are beautiful. Not only is some of the paint still intact, through modern technology, archaeologists are able to show how the buildings looked when they were first made. One such building even included an indoor pool with a giant engraved sculpture of a snake god. Because the structures are beautiful and full of precious artifacts, there is also the risk of looting. Looting has become one of the most popular jobs in this region. Only through educational and reforming programs has the country and Dr. Hansen been able to help turn some looters into lovers of history. Such students have even learned how to spell, read, and write whereas there would’ve been little resources for them to accomplish that in the poverty stricken areas. This also has created jobs, employment for citizens in the area to be a part of their culture in both past and future.
One of the highlights of this presentation was the exciting news to turn El Mirador into a destination for tourism. This will better the economy, create jobs for citizens, and invite more outsiders to explore the wonders of El Mirador. It had been a challenge before to figure out the best way to take visitors into the tropics to see this site because of the worries that creating a path through the area, would also help drug traffickers reach their destinations past El Mirador. After much debate, there’s been a plan developing to build a train that’ll run directly into El Mirador where there will be newly built hotels, restaurants, and possibly even a recreated Mayan ballgame for people to enjoy.
A special thanks to Gustavo Villeda for the provided photos.