November 29, 2013

0880 GUATEMALA (Petén) - Tikal National Park (UNESCO WHS)

Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites of the Maya civilization, and how could it be otherwise, since on its apogee (ca. 200 to 900 AD) this city dominated much of the Maya region, even interacting with the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico. The ruins lie in the heart of the tropical rainforests of northern Guatemala, the city, inhabited from the 6th century BC to the 10th century AD, being located among abundant fertile upland soils, and may have dominated a east-west trade route across the Yucatan Peninsula. The topography of the site consists of a series of parallel limestone ridges rising above swampy lowlands. The major architecture of the site is clustered upon areas of higher ground and linked by raised causeways spanning the swamps.

The ruined city reflects the cultural evolution of Mayan society from hunter-gathering to farming, with an elaborate religious, artistic and scientific culture. There are thousands of ancient structures at Tikal and only a fraction of these have been excavated. The most prominent surviving buildings include six very large pyramids, labelled Temples I - VI. In the postcard is Temple II (known as the Temple of the Mask), located on the west side of the Great Plaza, and having 38m height. It was built around AD 700 by the king Jasaw Chan K'awiil I in honour of his wife, Lady Kalajuun Une' Mo', but no tomb was found. Tikal National Park, included in 1979 among UNESCO World Heritage Sites, protects also some 22,100 ha of rainforest, with a rich vegetation and fauna.

The picture is even more special because it was made ​​in a special day, Columbus Day (October 12), named in Guatemala Día de la Raza (Day of the race), which commemorates the first encounters of Europeans and Native Americans. The people who can be seen in front of the temple performs the Baile de la Conquista (Dance of the Conquest), a public ritual drama which reenacts the invasion led by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado and his confrontation with the K'iche' Maya ruler Tecún Umán. The text was likely written in the late 16th or early 17th century by a franciscan missionary, who designed it in part to foster Maya conversion to Catholicism. To embody the characters of the drama, the dancers wear masks of painted pine wood in the style of the European baroque, costumes of velvet embroidered with sequins, mirrors, braids, and tin foil ornaments, and use ostrich plumes dyed in various colours. You can find all about this dance on the site of the Folkloric Group San Cristobal.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of the wonderful definitive series Textile Art of Guatemala, about which I wrote here. The second was issued on 2012 with the occasion of 150th Anniversary of Compañía Hijas de la Caridad de San Vicente de Paul.

Tikal - Wikipedia
Baile de la Conquista - Wikipedia
Tikal National Park - UNESCO official website
Dance of the Conquest - The website of the Folkloric Group San Cristobal

sender: Alejandra Herrarte (direct swap)
sent from Guatemala City (Guatemala), on 22.08.2013

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