If Chichen Itza has the impressive pyramid and carvings then Tulum has the spectacular view and setting. With a population of about 1,000 in its prime, the inhabitants must have had a comfortable existence: the sea for food (and transportation of goods), the stone walls for security and the early-warning view against incoming marauders.
Dating back to the 13th century, the remains of the stone buildings (limestone and sand blocks) were for the ‘important people’ (rulers, priests) and the square stone foundations that held wooden structures for the ‘common citizens’ (farmers, teachers, weavers, stone carvers).
To understand a people is to see how well they created their living space and when walking along the flowing paths and simple structures, I sense that the Mayans of Tulum were in sync with their surroundings.
The one well-preserved carving on the Temple of the Frescoes proves their carving ability. Staring at the mean-looking guy, I conclude that he wasn’t someone to admire – maybe he was the god of intimidation. Did he want to scare people or just provoke them into working harder? Why such a severe looking image? Seeing that scowl everyday would dampen the peoples’ mood in this idyllic environment. Not sure of the psychology of such imagery.
When travelling, I take a personal survey of the type of natural and cultural environment that I would want to live in. I could see myself living in ancient Tulum rather than modern Tulum (set along the highway), which has been pushed away from the sea and towards the 7-Elevens, gas stations and hustle of the current era.
It’s probably not fair to compare the two Tulums, but is it possible to learn from the past and create more serene surroundings? Maybe…