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Chichen-Itzá: Center of the Mesoamerican World

Chichen-Itzá: Center of the Mesoamerican World

Joining marvels such as the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China on “The New 7 Wonders of the World” list created by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 2007, the ruins of the pre-Columbian city by the name of Chichen-Itzá have been standing in some form for hundreds of years.

Located outside the city of Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula, the installations at Chichen-Itzá were constructed between the 6th and 13th Centuries, and represent one of the most widely recognized and frequently visited archeological sites in the nation. The story of Chichen-Itza is one of the various peoples that shaped its legacy, including the Toltecs as well as the Maya.

As a result, the ruins are a tapestry of Mesoamerican culture, with the surviving stone monuments and artistic works offering rare insights into each civilization’s evolving visions of the world as well as the Universe beyond. Together, they create a narrative of construction techniques and aesthetic themes employed over nearly a thousand years.

The city as a whole was once one of the largest cities in the Mayan domain, and was likely to have been one of the legendary Tolians referenced in later Mesoamerican literature. It had a highly diverse population, contributing to the great variety of architectural styles that gives the region its unique appeal. For these reasons, each year Chichen-Itzá welcomes in over 2.5 million curious travelers to discover the hidden wonders of a lost world.

Once the capital of an expansive territory on the peninsula, Chichen-Itzá offers a highly detailed glimpse into the migratory patterns that helped define the pre-Columbian period. Some of the most famous buildings to have endured through the ages at the Chichen-Itzá site include the Warriors’ Temple, the astrological observatory known as El Caracol, and of course, El Castillo, a step pyramid built by the Yucatec Maya people to honor deity Kukulkan.

A true feat of engineering, The Kukulkan Pyramid measures exactly 24 meters (approximately 80 feet) high from its base to the upper platform, and is a crowning achievement of the culture. The most celebrated feature of this grand temple is the carefully calibrated interplay between light and shadow that marks the seasonal equinoxes, with the rising sun creating illuminated triangles that slowly descend to the serpent head that pays tribute to the feathered serpent god.

Although tourism to Chichen-Itzá has been a regular occurrence for less than a century, today the site benefits from unprecedented efforts to preserve it for its deep historical significance. Open to the public 365 days a year, the ruins at Chichen-Itzá offer a chance to peer into the roots of Mexico and develop a greater appreciation for the universal heritage of mankind.