Monday, October 29, 2007

The chile chase is in ruins!!

The chile chase was literally in ruins... the ruins of great Mayan and Toltec cities. A recent chile addition to the collection came from Palenque itself, where "managed" wild chiles grow in the shadows of temples constructed over 1500 years ago.

Here is a photo of the largest plant we found - just along the edge of the forest in moderate shade. This one was clearly saved from "weeding" by the grounds crew. When we asked about this, it was clear that the useful plants were maintained - there were avocado trees, orange trees and several pepper plants that the vendors (selling souvenirs, etc) knew about and would harvest from.

Here, Kraig is kneeling at the site of a small chile plant at the base of a small temple.

...and here's a close up of the plant itself. While it is the same species found in other places in Mexico (see previous post on chile pequins) it has a different local name, tepenchil.

Of course, chile hunting at Palenque was a bonus. We were there to learn about the amazing history of the region and take in the sights! Here is the famous temple of the inscriptions in Palenque. When we arrived in the morning, howler monkeys provided a loud and very boisterous soundtrack for our wanderings.
While on the chase in Mexico, we are often obligated to stop by at some of Mexico's famous roadside attractions. In comparison to those found in the United States, those in Mexico are invariably more historic, more grandiose in construction and more photogenic! I will share a few of the best photos from these paradas:

This was the first one - El Tajín en Veracruz - a Totonac (Tutunakú) word that means thunder, this is a major ruins site on the central East Coast. Pictured is the temple of the niches - which has 365 niches around its facade.

Here is the El Castillo temple in Chichén Itzá - where on the spring and fall equinox, the light casts a shadow along the staircase that forms the shape of a serpent.

Here is the Toltec/Mayan port town of Tulum, on the Caribbean coast.

We'll leave you with a shot of one of the most impressive temples - the top of the largest pyramid in Uxmal - 12 Mini Chaac-Mul faces line the staircase on its way up to the central Chaac face at the top of the temple. The structure at the top is meant to mimic the face of Chaak Mool (the all important the rain god) - you can see the two eyes, the nose (broken off) and the gaping mouth, in which sacrafices were practiced...