..........SO YOU ARE WALKING ON A PATH THROUGH THE JUNGLE IN THE YUCATAN, NORTHERN MEXICO.
The place is alive with ants, crickets, flies, frogs, spiders, snakes, monkeys, owls, cats, bats, bluejays and some big black shadow casting birds and a million other kinds of creature, all singing their song. You're following the heels of the guide ahead who never seems to slip, duck, kick or collide with anything as he follows the rock path through the trees. You try to keep up and listen to what he says as you check your step, wipe your sweat, slap mosquitos, Scratch your bites and mind the branch overhead. Meanwhile he talks about different gods; their functions and present dispositions, certain spirits and where they assemble, caves, paths and pyramids which have have been left there for them, calendars, dates, mathematics and the coming of the age of the16th age of maya, prophesies, predictions and particular people.....
It's hard to remember it all while your struggling to find your feet, when all of a sudden he says, we are here.
You walk down a steep slope from branch to branch and come to the mouth of a giant cave that leads you under the jungle bed where its shaded, cool, damp and still - every movement echoes. Staligmites and staligtites abound, darkness surrounds, remains of old cultures are lost and found, rock formations and scratches on stones reveal secrets never to be told and the roots of the trees come down through the roof to drink the clear water. You ask how such places came about.
He says that the human soul came from such places in the first place. You ask how deep the water is.
He says that there are a network of waterways under this whole region and that here and there a cave will lead you to them. Cenotes they are called.
Who owns them you ask, but he is already under the surface, so you take off your cloths and join him in the most refreshing swim of your life so far....
Afterwards swinging in a hammock, sipping on a cold drink he begins to answer some questions for you;
There are two million Mayan people living in the region alone, mostly jungle. They live, speak, sing and trade in Mayan. The present Mexican government, like the last, thinks in terms of monetary gain and it hasn't yet found a way to make money from these peoples lives. The only assistance given has been to build roads through the trees and to man the roadblocks with the present Mexican army, to let them know who's in charge.
Perhaps the government sees the Yucatan Peninsula as a surplus land they haven't yet exploited. The Minister for Agriculture has been coming up with marvellous jungle levelling plans and cattle grazing projects. Many of the Mayan farmers are being carrot led to believe this to be the way forward.
Perhaps the ministers neglected to note that the land under this crop of trees is mostly jagged unfarmable volcanic rock or that the Mayan people who've looked after these areas for the last 20 or so centuries might just have other ideas about how best to utilise their surroundings in accordance with their future livelihoods; tourism, restoration, research, guide work, making and marketing of Mayan arts and crafts, cultivation of naturally grown produce may just be the key for the present generation as we reach the end of the 20th century and the end of their calendar. In the abscense of sustainable uses of the land the Maya who live in and around the forest will be forced to cut it for agriculture or lease it to loggers. There are efforts being made to promote alternative ecologically sound practices.
For information about conservation contact:
JUNGLE HONEY PROJECT,
Protnatura, Penninsula de Yucatan A.C.,Calle 1 D
No. 254-AX36Y, 38 Col Campeste, CP 97120 Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. Tel 442290
8 Calle 3-18, Zona 1, Ofinca 'l' Tecer Nivel, Guatemala, Gutamala, C.A... Telefax: 28932