I planned for a full day in Guatemala City. It was a day designed to visit many places, but my first stop was to visit a specific museum. I wanted read a Mayan Codex. So before the visit to the central market or the impressive main plaza of the capital city, I headed to the campus of the Francisco Marroquin University and visited the Museo Popol Vuh to see the Mayan “Dresden” Codex.
Museum Popol Vuh
In Guatemala visitors can find a replica of one of the few known existing Mayan codices (ancient Mayan books) in existence today. Located in a section of the city that seems miles (or kilometers) away from any hustle and bustle, two small yet modern museums share a courtyard and visitors. The first, the Museum Ixchel is filled with Mayan textiles. The halls display traditional costumes and people learn about the very weaving techniques that were used to produce them.
The second, Museum Popol Vuh contains the codex. Additionally, the halls are filled with Mayan pottery, a scale model of Tikal, and some early catholic artifacts. Both museums are easily visited in ninety minutes.
At the time of my visit only three known Mayan codices still existed. With all the original copies located in Europe, the one on display was a replica. The original surfaced is Dresden and aptly named the Dresden Codex. The others are in Madrid and Paris.
No doubt the beautiful colorful copy of the Mayan writings was the centerpiece of the museum. The display allowed visitors to walk around and view the ancient pages from every angle. Perhaps, the pages didn’t contain the same vibrant energy of an original hand crafted codex, but they still impressed. I still spent most of my hour in the museum reviewing the shapes, symbols and colors.
As I viewed the exhibit, I wondered what stories were left behind on these pages. I pondered how many clues to the many Mayan mysteries still unsolved could be decoded from such an artifact. The detail was remarkable. Truly incredible.
I was also sad, even a little angry when I remembered only three Mayan Codices remained. Such beauty nearly all destroyed by the Spanish during their religious conversion efforts. I asked myself why? Why do people fear other cultures so much they destroy their teachings and stories? I had no answer.
As I left, I decided to continue to be different, to continue to learn and appreciate other cultures. My trip to Guatemala had just begun and I was eager to see what adventures awaited. Many did.
Stay Adventurous, Craig
1) Taxi. Hire a taxi for the day. It was probably the best way to put Museo Popol Vuh on my itinerary along with the central market and main square all in a day. I was able to negotiate and obtain a reasonable rate with drop off and pickup times. I found my taxi driver at the hotel and the cost was 150 Quetzales (8 to 1 USD) for all my rides.
2) Museum Tickets. Purchase a joint ticket for both museums (Ixchel and Popol Vuh). I purchased the tickets (a coin) and received a noteworthy discount, but I also paid to photograph the exhibits. (Video is not necessary)
3) 90 minutes. Don’t plan for more than 1.5 hours. I breezed through the museums quickly even spending a ton of time reading about the codex and the ruins found in Guatemala (en español)
This post is part of the Get To Know Guate Series.