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Video on traditional Mayan cuisine in Quintana Roo

Video on traditional Mayan cuisine in Quintana Roo


Nowadays, tourists have to pay to visit “eco-villages” in order to see real Maya culture

Long time POOF subscriber,  Glenn Patent,  sent us this interesting video, which shows several of the traditional foods of northern Yucatan being grown and prepared for the edification of tourists.    The host of the show is rather California-ish . . . that’s about the same level of cultural ignorance as Yankee-ish . . . but with a stupid grin on their face all the time.   However, the actual description of traditional Maya culture in this eco-village is pretty accurate. 

Quintana Roo is a small Mexican state in the northeastern corner of the Yucatan Peninsula.  When I was there, it was a territory, with very little governmental presence either locally or from Mexico City.   What the show does not tell you is that most of the Mayas in Quintana Roo are descended from Mayas in the Guatemalan and Belize Highlands, who immigrated to northeastern Yucatan Peninsula after the collapse of Classic Maya civilization.  So what you will be watching is NOT representative of the aboriginal peoples of Yucatan.  Have no fear.  I stayed among the aboriginal peoples, who still live in eastern Campeche.  I have several slides of their farmsteads and villages. 

In a way, it was sad for me to see the opening part of the video.  When I was in Quintana Roo, there was only one paved highway.  There were no billboards,  convenience stores and very little electricity.   What I observed everywhere, is now usually confined to artificial eco-villages for tourists to visit.   During the late 20th century, the federal government in Mexico provided many incentives for non-Mayas to relocate to Yucatan and Quintana Roo States.  The Mayas have been intentionally pushed to minority status in Quintana Roo, so they won’t ever dream again of having their on sovereign nation.

Let me emphasize again that the portrayal of Quintano Roo agricultural practices and traditional cuisine in the film is accurate, but is composed of exhibits in a living history museum, not the real thing.   In coming months, I will be showing you digitized color slides of what the real thing was back in “the old days.”  Do you recall a recent article on my visit to the “tiny village of Cancun,” where my Maya hosts barbecued a young pig by wrapping the meat in banana leaves and burying the parcels underground in coals?    This film shows the whole process.


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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    I just got back from Cancun in Quintana Roo–a friend and her husband had a trip planned, but he ended up not being able to go so I was invited to take his place. I went to the Mayan Cultural Museum, but was disappointed to find a human skull misidentified as a mask and no other information about it. . . .

    • Sounds like the anthropology museums in Mexico City, Merida, Villahermosa and Paplantla are much better organized. Usually, the INAH museums have staff archaeologists there to explain the exhibits to visitors.


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