Monks and Mayans Meet at Hacienda Tres Rios

Wednesday was the first day of the Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter at Hacienda Tres Rios, a luxury eco resort located in the Riviera Maya. The goal of this event is to showcase the unique ceremonies of local Mayan communities and Tibetan monks, oftentimes combining the two. The fusion of the Mayan and Tibetan cultures was truly astounding; even though they’re set on opposite sides of the world, the two groups demonstrated some striking similarities!

Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery checked in to the resort on Tuesday wearing brightly-colored robes, and the following day began to share their traditions with guests and visitors at Hacienda Tres Rios along with local Mayan performers wearing colorful Yucatecan garb.

Opening Ceremony

In the morning, we made our way out to the beautiful, untouched beach at Hacienda Tres Rios, where a tent had been set up as a stage for the Mayan dancers and Tibetan monks. The ceremony began with opening words from the event’s organizers from Richard Gere Productions, Producciones Arte Maya and Hacienda Tres Rios.

The arrival of the Tibetan monks was a sight to see as they rowed onto the beach and were greeted by the Mayan community with drums and the blowing of conch shells.

As the Tibetan monks lined up under the tent, I was blown away by the combination of the bright monks robes, the white Mayan clothing with vividly colored details, and the mostly-white, flowy outfits of the audience. Beautiful!

We all looked on as the monks began to chant a deep, slow song, which was followed by the Mayan community presenting them with local gifts. Afterwards, Mayan performers with incense and colorful outfits began to dance for the monks and the audience on the sand, hailing the four cardinal points in a fascinating show.

The Sand Mandala

After the opening ceremony, we were led to the resort’s immense lobby to witness the opening of the monks’ sand mandala, a beautiful and elaborate piece of art that the monks will continue to work on until the end of the Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter on Sunday.

The sand mandala ceremony began with several minutes of chanting by the Tibetan monks. They took out didgeridoo instruments (long horns) along with some colorful trumpets and drums. The entire lobby began to vibrate and I thought, “Wow! Those didgeridoos are powerful!” until I realized that it was the monks deep, gutteral chanting that was making the room shake. Incredible! Whenever the monks began to play their other instruments, I noticed it sounded similar to mariachi music, but played with different notes and combinations.

To create the sand mandala, the monks first measured and traced out chalk lines on the center table using string and rulers. They had a separate table filled with brightly colored sand, and they tapped on detailed straw-like instruments to filter the sand into its exact spot on the mandala.

Guests at the resort will be able to view the mandala-making process throughout the rest of the week. The unveiling will be on Sunday September 16, at which time the mandala will also be destroyed. The monks explained to the audience that the mandala is destroyed to represent how fleeting and temporary our life on this earth is. A stunning work of art with a profound message.

The Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter runs until this Sunday at the All Inclusive Hacienda Tres Rios resort. If you’re vacationing in the area this weekend, I recommend you spend a day at the resort to experience the ceremonies, rituals and conferences that will be going on throughout the day.

Family Dinner at Yaxche Mayan Restaurant

Even though my family and my in-laws speak different languages, they still have a fun time when they get together!

Tuesday night we all met up in Playa del Carmen for dinner. We decided on a restaurant serving Mayan/Yucatan cuisine. It had always attracted my attention, plus I thought it would be cool for my in-laws to be able to explain a little about the dishes to us.

Yaxche looks beautiful from the outside, with eye-catching modern style with a Mayan twist. Stepping inside was no different, with Mayan artwork all over the walls contrasting with contemporary light fixtures.

I was so excited looking through the menu, seeing all my local favorites. I had such a hard time deciding that I ordered two dishes!

Euxiquia (Xcatic chile and potato soup)... spicy and amazing!

If you've never heard of panuchos, you've never lived in the Yucatan.

Several people in our group got the Queso Relleno (stuffed cheese), with Edam cheese, ground pork, olives, capers and raisins, with a side of “Mayan rice”. Sorry for the bad picture:

My suegra said that the restaurant’s recipes had the same ingredients as the more traditional, homemade versions, but the presentation was quite different. Despite the unique twist on her old favorites, she still liked the food very much.

Jorge and I would like to come back to this restaurant on our own sometime. It would make a great date night, and there were so many dishes I didn’t get to try. The service was very friendly and helpful, and the price was about $350 pesos per person, including food, drinks and a 20% tip.

It was great for both families to spend some time together. My suegra is already planning a traditional Mexican dinner for my parents next time they’re in the area… complete with mariachis!

Have you ever had Mayan cuisine?

Mundo Maya 2012 Video

This year, Mexico’s President Calderon has announced a new program called “Mundo Maya 2012” to promote the Mayan culture, archaeology and heritageĀ as we get closer to the infamous year of 2012. I’m super excited about it because the Yucatan Peninsula is full of Mayan culture and ruins, plus Jorge’s family is of Mayan descent. (Does that make me an honorary Mayan? My suegra would probably say so.)

The Secretary of Tourism has put together this incredible video for the program. Enjoy!

Of these, I’ve only been to Palenque, Tulum and Chichen Itza. I’ve got a long way to go! Have you been to any of the sites shown in the Mundo Maya 2012 video?

Yucatan Folklore Part 3

Another alux story from the town of Yobain!

To read my previous stories on Yucatan’s mystical pranksters, the aluxes, check out the following:

Yucatan Folklore Part 1

Yucatan Folklore Part 2

Uncle Mike told us another story about an alux encounter from when he was a kid. Mike was walking through Yobain at night with his older brother, Eduardo. Mike looked behind him, and suddenly saw two bright red eyes following them down the road. He told Eduardo, who replied “Don’t look at it, just keep walking.” They got home quickly, and once they were inside the house, Eduardo said “I can’t believe that thing was following me again.”

To answer some questions from previous posts, aluxes aren’t considered violent or evil. They love playing tricks on people, and if you deny their existence or mock them they will get even with you! (I actually have a pretty good story about aluxes getting even… ya’ll will read it next week!)