Eternal Springtime The Mayans of Guatemala and the surrounding
regions had one of the most advanced civilizations of the ancient
world. Theircities flourished across Central America, complete with
remarkable pyramids, temples, observatories and libraries, and their
scholars produced works of literature, philosophy, art and architecture.
Particularly skilled in mathematics and astronomy, Mayan scientists
developed a calendar more precise than that used by NASA even today.
With the invasion of the Spanish Conquistadors in the early 1500s,
the world of the Mayans, like all of the other Indigenous societies
in the western hemisphere, came to a fiery and brutal end. Although
medieval Europe was in many ways far less developed, the Conquistadors
arrived with enormous military advantages: specifically, gun powder,
steel swords, and horses. The Mayans fought valiantly on foot, with
their obsidian spears and leather shields, but they suffered devastating
losses. Within a few years, they had become slaves in their own
homeland, deprived of their lands, their rights, and any political
or social representation of any kind. Their libraries and cities
were burned and sacked, and their religion and culture were banned.
Throughout the hemisphere war, disease and slavery wiped out nearly
90% of the Indigenous population within a century.
Despite the odds, the Mayans of Guatemala survived and maintained
their heritage, religion and languages intact, although often virtually
clandestine. Today the socio-economic structure in Guatemala is
reminiscent of the old South Africa, with the
Mayans constituting the majority of the population some 80%
yet subjected to extreme racial discrimination and repression.
Stripped of both their lands and political representation, they
remain a virtual serf population. The villagers suffer an 80% malnutrition
level, 80% functional illiteracy level, and the highest infant mortality
rate in the hemisphere, second only to people of Haiti. Meanwhile,
the lighter skinned descendants of the Conquistadors and other colonists
live on large plantations and enjoy great wealth and social prestige.
Nevertheless, the Mayans cling fiercely to their own cultural identity,
wearing their own hand-woven clothing, complete with mythical symbols,
celebrating their own cultural and religious ceremonies, and speaking
their own languages. Some 23 Mayan languages are still spoken in
Guatemala today, and the people continue to secretly worship their
own Gods at ancient temple sites in the mountains. Source
Depths: Lake Yojoa Lake Yojoa is a natural lake, surrounded
mountains, amongst which is Cerro Santa Barbara, the second highest
peak in Honduras with almost 8,000 ft of altitude over sea level.
These majestic mountains, which surround the lake, are home to two
of Honduras's National Parks: Santa Barbara on the Northern shore,
and Azul Meambar on the Southern shore. The combination of vegetation
and water create an impressively diverse habitat that is home to many
different species of flora and fauna. Just as an example, the lake
is home to over 373 species of birds!
Lake Yojoa has long been attractive to humans. During the time span
of the millennium prior to Christ and well into the first millennium
of our era, the shores of the lake were inhabited by native Americans
believed to be of the Lenca Culture. Descendants of the Lencas still
populate much of western Honduras, and although their native language
has long disappeared, many of their precolombian customs and beliefs
survive. The largest concentration of Lencas can be found in the departments
of Intibuca and Lempira.
The lake, which sits at an altitude of approximately 2,200 ft. above
sea level, offers ideal conditions for coffee, and therefore, there
are quite a few coffee "fincas" or plantations in the neighborhood,
which is one of the main sources of income to the area.
During the 1970's the lake became famous for its black bass fishing.
Unfortunately, these were over fished, and therefore a boom in tourism,
with fishermen from around the world coming to fish bass came to a
sudden crash. Local environmental groups (Ecolago) have been protecting
the bass for over two decades, and the result can now be appreciated.
Sport fishing is once again on an upward swing, with reports of a
fish biting approximately every 45 minutes on the average with each
catch weighing in excess of 13 pounds! Source