I just read that the Mayans sacrificed boys and young men in cenotes – not girls, as previously thought.

I’ve had a deep-seated terror of cenotes since age 8, when my family visited Mexico.  The cenotes we saw weren’t especially large or dramatic – more like wide wells, surrounded by forest.  I remember the fear I felt when the tour guide described how they threw the girls in.  How the girls swam and swam, hands slipping on the dank limestone walls, nowhere to grab hold, until they drowned. 

I pictured it so vividly, and identified with the girls so strongly, that I felt as if it could somehow happen to me at any moment. 

Every now and again over the (many) years since, I’ve thought about the cenote girls.  Each time, it’s bizarre, but I feel that chilly fear all over again.

About four years ago, I saw an exhibit by a modern abstract painter at the Mexican Museum of Fine Arts.  The paintings were very abstract, just rectangles piled up in different arrangements, vaguely suggesting people, dwellings, pyramids, etc.  Then I saw one particular painting and froze.  Before I consciously thought it, the word rushed into my mind: cenote.  I felt cold all over, and weak. 

 I looked closer, for a reality check, and decided that I was being silly, it was so abstract it could be anything really.  I wobbled up and read the card.  Sure enough … the painting represented a cenote.

All of this is to say that while I feel terribly sad for the poor boys and young men who were sacrificed, I felt a huge weight lift when I read this article.  They didn’t sacrifice girls after all.

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