Anyway, we’ll set aside family wedding lore and get us to the 21st century. My grandmother’s wore store-bought dresses, as did my mother. Even though the grandmother’s were avid seamstresses. No doubt, their dresses were beautiful. Juanita wore a 1949 classic dress that had a train and a slim a-line cut with plenty of lace, while Candice went early 1960s in a bell skirt and soft satin. My mom had a simple 1990s dress that was simple and suited their Western-themed shindig.
For myself, a child and grandchild of crafters and history nerds, I went a new but old direction. No doubt for centuries my relatives made their own clothing or had someone make them clothes, probably a relative, maybe a seamstress. So when it came to my own dress, I started with shopping in stores, and online, and with Etsy. I ended at making my own dress.
Being me, I couldn’t make a normal dress. Because of being stubborn and also being entranced with a certain design from the 18th century. The Chemise a la Reine, which was worn in the late 1700s is the amalgamation of changing culture, feminism and moving away from the strictness of fine dress. It was the beginning of a brief 30 years or so where women wore clothing that was more comfortable and more reasonable for the lives that women were leading. The Chemise a la Reine was controversial in its time for being too simple, too much like underwear. The painting below of Marie Antoinette was scandalous in its day.
So for me, the chance to create and wear something so beautiful, but
representative of how far women have come and the excitement of having something of a “princess” dress was the perfect blend.
Naturally, I made a few modern changes. I added less poofs, I made a multi-colored under skirt and my hair represented a more modern take. It all also blended well with the Alphonse Mucha fall theme that touched many aspects of our day.
Part II tomorrow.
However, I want to expand on my journey through Chichen Itza as it was a really remarkable day and I highly recommend spending the time to visit if you find yourself in the Yucatan or Mayan Peninsula.
I never truly understood why Chichen Itza was considered a wonder of the world until we visited it, and we made the right decision in getting up stupidly early and going with an archeologist as a tour guide.
This helped with several parts of our day. First, we beat the heat by getting there early. Second, we beat the general public crowds. Third, we missed some of the harassment from vendors that set up all over the city grounds. Finally, and most importantly, it gave us historical and cultural backgrounds we would have not otherwise learned.
If you have an interest in this tour, click here, it’s through Viator and well worth the price.
We started the day with a somewhat late pickup from our resort, this was the only real issue on the tour, which I am unsure of what happened with it, but it was a minor hiccup that was fixed with a quick phone call.
One downside for my husband was that the van from Playa del Carmen was pretty small for his 6’4″ body, but we survived. However, do note that this will be up to three hours in the van/bus each way. Also, you may bring a hoodie just for the cool weather and/or air conditioning on the bus. This is also a great time to nap! Don’t worry about needing a restroom of food/water, there will be about two stops going and coming back for any needs you may have.
At the complex we met up with our guide/archeologist, Marco, who took us on what felt like a SHORT two hour tour of the main part of the city.
As you walk into the city complex you are met with the grand pyramid, or Castillo Temple that is so iconic. This is where we learned about the sounds that bounce through the temple creating a whistling like a bird, which changes in pitch and volume from where you stand and listen or clap. To the east of this is a remarkable temple that makes a rattle snake noise (tail rattling) when you clap at a certain angle.
All of this is meant to represent and celebrate Kukulkan, the feathered serpent man-god that meant so much to the Maya culture. They also, at this time in the culture, practiced human sacrifice to appease the god(s) through blood offerings where hearts were ripped form chests while still beating, and backs were broken before being drowned. (This really isn’t so different from gladiator games, public hangings, warfare etc.)
From there we toured buildings set up for the king of this specific city-state and the intricate measures that were taken for the rulers and nobility. For instance, a king was never allowed to touch the ground, so there are no steps from his throne room at the ball field and other areas that reach the ground. Instead, the noble was transported on a Litter.
In addition to being blown away by just the scale of the buildings more auditory wonders came into play. For instance, at the ball field, for the Mesoamerican Ballgame, they had an auditory system set up where the King could hear conversation from the opposite side of the field.
Maybe you remember it from this movie:
Traditionally, visitors from other tribes and cultures would be placed here, so that the king could listen for any treasonous information or gossip and it’s likely that the visitors had no idea they were being spied on.
Finally, our tour was wrapped up with some free time, around an hour, where we were able to see other buildings that made up the city. We also had to note we were only seeing about 30% of the entire city as much more was closed off for restoration and research. However, it was exciting to explore the city and imagine what it would have looked like with thousands of people milling around. People that were praying, working, selling, cooking, talking and living their lives as people around the world do.
In the other areas of the city we saw what is believed to be an astronomy tower, additional pyramids, and royal complexes that housed people and worked in tandem with their beliefs and rituals.
We learned other snippets as well, like that the Castillo or main pyramid has several pyramids built inside of it and that the Maya would build new things, and burn the old every 52 years or so as a rebirth cycle with their calendar. Additionally, the majority of the city would have been painted in lush, vibrant colors, specifically red made from paprika or cochineal.
While many people jump on the bandwagon that the Maya were supernatural or even in touch with a greater power, I have to encourage additional research and thought. It’s easy to come up and write off ideas as beyond this world, it’s harder to do the research and actually learn where, what, when and how things came together. Pretending that an alien or outside entity must have created these marvels writes off people that fall into a minority as somehow unable to build such remarkable things. Which is complete garbage. These empires and cultures from the Americas lived in the same complex cultures and identities that Europeans held onto. While they looked, spoke, and existed differently, their mores, taboos, and livelihoods were very similar and equally important. There are also endless wonders in the Americas, some of which are just being discovered.
Anyway, get out, explore, be amazed!