Philadelphia: The Maya and the Tarahumara

Whew! Yesterday was PACKED and oh-so-much fun! Luis came out to visit, and we took the kids to see the Maya: Lords of Time exhibit at the UPenn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Luis is from Guerrero, a state in the southwest region of Mexico. Although his state is on the outskirts of what was once Aztec lands, he has always been so interested in the Mayas. When Rob told me about the exhibit, I knew it would be the perfect excursion!

The museum is located in University City, which is basically where everything relating to or involving UPenn and Drexel is located. I had been around the area a few times, but this was my first time exploring on foot with time to spare. It was so uplifting, I felt totally immersed in an environment that is wholly dedicated to learning.

The museum gardens were so tranquil. It was way too hot to keep the kids out in the sun, but I am looking forward to returning when the weather is cooler!

The exhibit began with a number of screens all playing various movie clips and news stories that related to the 2012 predictions. I wasn’t sure if it was going to focus more on the infamous Mayan prophecies or on the culture, though it ended up being a seamless integration of both.

This guy was actually the first thing I saw when I walked in. As funny as I think he is, it is still amazing to think that he was created thousands of years ago by a society devoid of electronics and the like, and now he is sitting in a glass case being photographed by my flashy modern Canon. The sheer span of time leaves me in awe.

There were hundreds of artifacts to keep the kids’ heads spinning. These are Mayan weapons used in hunting as well as battle. So much fancier than my stainless steel kitchen knives….

There were a number of interactive displays as well. These machines allowed you to select a Mayan name and then actually use the Mayan calendar to find your birthday and print a corresponding “stela,” a series of glyphs stating your name and birthday in the ancient Maya language!

Jack had a lot of fun poking the screens and watching things happen. He picked out the glyphs for his “Mayan name” himself: “Black Macaw.” Carolyn ended up with “White Flower.”

Projection screen of a video of our universe. Jack and I stayed here for a while watching it, and he kept saying, “pretty! pretty!” I’m right there with him.

It amazes me when I think about the gap between then and now, how much things can change with time. Humans are so remarkably innovative- though we don’t always put our ideas to the best use. I hope someday we can learn to be a more peaceful and compassionate people, as a whole.

An intricately carved deer bone. I can not accurately convey the level of detail here- it was stunning. Another ten minutes spent staring and marveling.

This was probably the highlight of the exhibit for me- ancient Mayan books! They are so beautiful, I was captivated. As old books go, these were definitely the crème de la crème.

The exit was flanked by these walls of “worry dolls.” I always get excited when I see these because they remind me of my childhood. My mother and her childhood best friend used to have them around and I loved to play with them and hear their backstory. I actually bought a small box of them for my mother recently, and now they’re living on top of our clock in the living room. Anytime I want to be taken back to that time, all I have to do is open the box and the memories flood in. The dolls are supposed to take a person’s worries away, and they were near the exit as a symbol of the worry that people are feeling over the supposed 2012 predictions.

There was even a place to cast your vote- yes or no- as to the validity of the “end of the world.” Personally I don’t believe it, and the exhibit did a great job of gently debunking what I believe is an enormous ballooning myth. However, the worry dolls did fit perfectly with a more personal theme.

It has been a huge challenge to try to work out our family’s situation. It’s hard on the kids having Luis in New York for most of the week, but when he was staying with us we spent most of our time frustrated with one another because our values and ways of living are so different. He wants to be involved in Jack and Carolyn’s lives, which is something that I support wholeheartedly, but finding a balance has been tricky.

Spending time together just the four of us, and watching the kids (well, mostly Jack) explore and learn yesterday- that was really something. We had fun together as a family, even if we’re wired a little bit differently. One of the things I wanted to retain through this entire ordeal is my friendship with Luis, and now I think we’re starting to figure out how to make this sideways situation work.

After the exhibit we wandered through the gift shop. They had all kinds of “authentic” Mexican souvenirs, which made Luis laugh. Personally, I was partial to the froggy toothpick holders 🙂

But Carolyn wasn’t having any of my foolishness, and sought a deeper (and more fashionable) connection with her roots.

We actually ended up stumbling over an exhibit further exploring ancient Mexico, which eventually led us to…

and exhibit of pictures and artifacts of the Tarahumara! The Tarahumara are a community of people known more commonly as Raramuri, or “The Running People.”

His shirt reads: “Club Mas Loco.” Brilliant.

They live in the Barrancas, canyons in the Sierra Madres mountains in Chihuahua, Mexico. These people run hundreds of miles at a time, hence the name.

One of the books I am reading, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, explores the secrets of the Tarahumara and tells the story of their participation in an ultramarathon through the desert. The book is as amazing as the idea of running 100 miles.

This was an unexpected detour and definitely extended our stay at the museum. Luckily, Jack and Carolyn didn’t seem to mind. I am lucky to have two very patient and interested children.

It is so funny to me that so much money is spent on high-tech running gear, shoes, food to sustain us during long workouts…these people are the greatest runners in the world, covering distances on foot that most people don’t drive in a day…and they do it in their skirts and tunics, with old pieces of tire strapped to their feet. It gives you a real look in the mirror. How much of what we think we need do we really need?

After we left the museum, we headed to a pub-type place that has received some hype for its numerous vegan options, but this is getting rather long (read: Jack just woke up from his nap), so I’m going to save that for later. Right now, it’s runnin’ time.

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2 thoughts on “Philadelphia: The Maya and the Tarahumara

  1. Pingback: Local 44: A Review « Being Elizabeth

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