A lot of new age spiritual tourism happens at Palenque, so I tried to capture my imagination of a spiritual seeker’s experience of the space. The ruins are blurred and the strange looking life-form takes the stage. It is a new being, sprouting from ancient beliefs.
I am going to be honest, that picture pretty much captures how I was feeling about my presence in the site. I was almost completely disenchanted with the whole touring‐Mayan‐ruins thing by the time we visited Palenque… which is a shame, because it is by far the most beautiful site we visited. But by the last leg of the trip, I couldn’t even pretend that I understood the real significance of these sites. Our tour guide was constantly telling us bits and pieces of history related to one ruin and then moving us along to the next. I couldn’t process all of the disjointed information, nor could I process what it meant for me to be experiencing these sites in the current historical moment.
Also, I am getting suspicious of archaeology—both in theory and in practice. It seems a little… recursive, almost. Why do we spend so much time trying to dissect the past? Has archaeology really done anything to better our lives today? I mean, I get that these places are beautiful and that Mayan civilization was fascinating and “advanced”, but do we really think that lusting for the past is going to create a more livable tomorrow? Because even if we did find out that Mayans were using internet a thousand years ago or something crazy like that… why does it matter right now? Archaeological discoveries seem to only feed the desire to find more. Do people truly believe that archaeology will someday uncover the key to end all human suffering?
I also have trouble with knowing that most of these sites were excavated by white men. The most privileged group in the modern world. Of course they showed up in Mexico when they realized they could get their hands all over history again! They piece together their best guess of how Mayan Civilization looked and worked, and then go to people in Mexico of Mayan descent and preach that they need to know about this stuff because it is “their story”….. But is it? Who wrote it? Why do we think it is okay to tell people how to define themselves? And how would you feel if all of a sudden a bunch of foreigners showed up in your neighborhood, started tearing the earth apart to build an enormous replica of the past, stuck your name on it, then charged people admission to come snoop around?