I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. Acts 25:17-18 (NIV)
Today we travelled southwest of Antigua to some Mayan Ruins called Iximche about an hour outside of Antigua. The drive was through some beautiful farmland with cows, goats and horses grazing in pastures. As we drove, we climbed up into the mountains until we were at 7100 feet and so high, we were up in the clouds. it was foggy, cold and rainy. The city was built on a ridge flanked by two rivers which helped to make it secure. When we arrived, we went into a small museum to see a model of the site and some artifacts found there. It was interesting to note that any gold artifacts were in larger museums and only poorly made replicas were left in the museum. However, skulls found on site were on display as well as some items made of pumice stone including masks, knives and a ceremonial yoke. The model showed how large the site once was. Its name means corn (or maize) tree also known as the ramon tree. Since that particular plant does not grow in the mountains, the people who named the city may have come from another part of the country and moved into the area in order to defend themselves from attack. Iximche was the capital of the Mayan kingdom from 1470 to 1524 when it was abandoned. Most of the population was killed by smallpox which spread throughout Central American in advance of the Spanish explorers. Spain founded their first capital here and changed the name to Guatemala which meant forested land. The city consisted of residential areas that spilled over into the ravine as well as four large and two small plazas, each of which contained at least two temples. In addition to palaces and ball courts, there were also altars for human sacrifice. Before we left the museum grounds, we struck up a conversation with a father who had brought his children to the museum for the afternoon and some of our team quickly started a soccer game with the children. The two little girls were so cute and quite talented at “football.” We then left the museum and walked to the site. I was a little disappointed that there are not many large buildings. Because I minored in art history, as a college student I visited other Central American temple mounds in both Belize and Honduras. The site at Iximche does not compare with those huge monuments that rise up out of the jungle. But, what struck me about Iximche is that it is still in use. The Mayan people come regularly to hold councils and to worship. We walked to the back of the site overlooking the ravine and found a smaller ancient altar with smoke still smoldering from the remnants of sacrifice of sugar, tobacco and alcohol. I could not help but think of those darling little girls as I realized the powers of darkness that still control Guatemala. For me, it made our work here much more urgent.