Grutas de Balankanché (Balankanche Caverns)
The Maya believe caves and caverns to be links with the underworld, or “inframundo.” Often containing pools of water, caves were thought to be the domain of Chac, the rain god. There is evidence that this idea was shared by other important civilizations in Mesoamerica, including the Aztecs, Teotihuacanos, and as far back as the Olmecs (predecessors to the Maya). Archaeologists have theorized that water channeled through a cave under the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, indicated that it was the domain of the pop-eyed rain god, whom they called Tlaloc. The Aztecs (who flourished in the Post-classic era, until the conquest of Mexico) believed that caves generated clouds and rain.
Although the outer chambers of this series of caves have been used by modern Maya, a sealed inner chamber was only discovered in 1959. Pottery found within showed that the caves were used in religious ceremonies for millennia. Incense censers with Chac faces were carbon dated to about AD 860, and it’s a wonderful thing to see them in situ instead of in the glass case of a modern museum.
As we wandered through the caves on a recent trip, we asked about the meaning of the word Balankanché, also written Balankanchen or Balancanchen. Our guide said that many people confuse the Maya word “Balan” with “Balam” (“jaguar”), mistakenly translating it as “the jaguar’s throne.” His interpretation, however, was “hidden throne or altar.” The altar-throne was an icon important to Olmec rulers.
For more information, check out our Balankanche Travel Guide.
...........FESTIVALS AND EVENTS.............
|Fiestas del Equinoccio - Cultural|
Chichen Itza, Yucatan
Autumnal Equinox celebrated at Chichen Itza; snake shadow creeps down the Kukulkan Temple Pyramid in visual representation of the god Quetzalcoatl (Kukulkan). Prayer groups and vigils.
| October and November (annual)|
October 31--early November
|Otoño Cultural de Valladolid - Cultural|
Throughout October and November, cultural events are held at venues throughout the city, including city parks and the cultural center. During the latter part of October---dedicated to La Fiesta del Cristo Rey (Feast of Christ the King)---there is an artisan fair with vendors selling leather goods, jewelry, clothing, and hammocks, among other items.
|Hanal Pixan (Day of the Dead) - Religious|
In the main plaza and Parque de Sisal, altars are erected for departed souls. Area churches hold special Masses and Rosaries, and almost everyone in town heads to the cemetary to decorate graves of their departed loved ones.
| Mid November|
|VII Annual Yucatan Bird Festival - Birdwatching|
Banquet, field trips, photography and competition all related to birdwatching
| early January (annual)|
Beginning of January
|Festival Internacional de las Artes - Birdwatching|
Government-sponsored cultural event this arts festival featuring concerts, dance, theater, fine arts and photography.
January 21--February 2, 2012
|Anniversary of the founding of Merida - Cultural|
More than two weeks of nonstop cultural festivities to celebrate Meridaâ€™s 466th anniversary. Music, theater, free outdoor concerts and entertainment, food, and fun.
|Feria de la Candelaria - Cultural|
One of the most important events of the region, a 12-day fair culminating on the Feast Day of the town’s patron saint, la Virgen de la Candelaría (the Virgin of Candlemass). With handcrafts and art exhibits, cultural events, food, bullfights, and livestock shows.
| March 20 annual|
|Fiestas del Equinoccio - Cultural|
Spring and fall equinoxes celebrated by New Age types wearing white and meditating for world peace. Shadow slips down edge of Kukulkan Temple to represent god Quetzalcoatl (Kukulkan).
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