Skirting Archaeological Disaster

20 Tourists Assaulted in Tikal

“Veinte turistas extranjeros que viajaban al Parque Nacional Tikal en un microbús colectivo fueron asaltados ayer en la mañana, en el kilómetro 36 de la carretera a Ciudad Flores, Petén, informó la Policía Nacional Civil (PNC).” (From the Prensa Libre, Guatemala)

Also a Global Heritage Site, The nearby temples of Yaxha, is our destination the day after Tikal. As we drive through Remate, the gateway city to the ruins, we see a huge police presence. The Guatemalan  PNC (national police) and their trucks line the streets all displaying firearms of one kind or another. I’m scared. Bob, my resident political analyst, has been warning me about the isolated northern border of Guatemala and Mexico, “It’s the stomping ground of the drug cartels. A few years ago three dozen people were murdered up here for interfering.” Moya’s son Jason, a man of few words, when asked about it, just shrugs. “There hasn’t been any trouble lately, but we don’t keep up with the news. No TV, poor internet.” Hard economic times in a true third world country have taken a toll, aided and abetted by the drug wars and the death squads. I hold my breath as we drive through without being stopped.

Yaxha - from the temple top

Even less people are in attendance at the more remote and less excavated Yaxha. We walk through a surrounding jungle complete with a large population of howler monkeys calling and communicating with each other. It’s like we’ve discovered this place and have it to ourselves.  Standing atop a temple we follow a huge lake to another temple top in the far distance. Remnants of the extensive causeway system link the numerous ancient cities. I revel in what a magnificent and intelligent society thrived here some 3000 years ago.

Temple at Yaxha

On the way home, past the cops still on guard, we stop for a late lunch and pick up a newspaper, La Prensa LIbre, while we wait.

Here’s a translation of today’s news: “Twenty foreign tourists traveling to Tikal in a microbus were assaulted yesterday morning 36 k. from Flores, Petén, Guatemala according to the PNC (National Civil Police). Total: 60 tourists assaulted in the last 15 días in Petén. Oh My God! We skirted disaster.

Next time: Back to my memoir Life and Deaf