by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
Chichen Itza, Yucatan – August 12, 1970
One Summer In Mexico – Part 29
The strange connection between DNA and spiritual connections
At the new age of 21, I knew very little about my Creek ancestry and certainly had no clue that I carried so much Indigenous American DNA . . . not to mention the fact that all of it was from southern Mexico, eastern Peru or Lapland. I was never able to “connect” with the indigenous peoples of Central Mexico. There was a spiritual wall between us . . . as much as tried.
Until reading my voluminous Mexican journal, I had forgotten how friendly the Native peoples were in southern Mexico and Central America. The first bus stop after we crossed into the homelands of the Creek People, everything changed. They were not overtly friendly with the other Gringo tourists, just me. Well, they were not rude to North Americans, but repeatedly they came up to me. They would either help me with my pigeon Spanish or teach me words in their language so we could communicate.
Full-blooded Native American mothers would approach me with their 16 year old daughter to introduce her to me . . . not knowing that would get me a prison sentence back in the states. Older Mestizo and Native gals constantly came up to me in the larger towns to say hello and invite me to their homes (to practice their English) and be served dinner. People on the buses chatted with me in Spanish. Repeatedly, while in the boonies, Maya families would invite me to stay in their huts for free – meals included.
Again, let me emphasize that in southern Mexico, there were legions of single males from North America and Europe traveling around, but the locals ignored them. The Native peoples in the Creek Motherland somehow sensed something that I would not realize until many decades later. We were kin!
From here on in the series, you will be reading human interest stories or descriptions of individual buildings. Meanwhile, I will be concentrating on the production of professional quality educational videos on each of the major archaeological sites I visited in southern Mesoamerica. There is so much important material in my slides and journal, which relate to events that would occur in the 21st century. The videos will be left as a legacy forever on my Youtube Channel . . . People of One Fire.
Three Quebecois teachers with Montezuma’s Revenge
I was about to climb the Pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza to photograph other buildings, when I noticed three women about my age, sitting on the lowest step and weeping. I heard them speaking French. I remembered enough French from two years in high school and one year at Georgia Tech to ask them: “Bonjour! Quel est votre problème? Puis-je vous aider?” Lucie asked back in French, if I was a Canadian. I responded that I was from Atlanta, Georgia. They were surprised that someone from the backward South could speak French. They tried switching to English, but ended up mixing French with English.
My journal states that incredibly, this was the first time that any of the ladies had ever spoken English in a conversation! All three were school teachers. All three had severe dysentery. Absolutely nobody in Merida could speak French and they didn’t know any Spanish. When they went into stores in search of medicine, very few people spoke English and no one understood their pigeon English. I was surprised since they lived in a large metropolis in Canada, but they also had a very limited English vocabulary.
I first went over to a vendor and got them some bottled water. Evidently, they were so dehydrated, that they couldn’t even think straight. We got to know each other under a shade tree then went over to the museum. I translated the Spanish/English signs for them. My journal says that they didn’t even know the meaning of “warrior.” I told them it was “soldier.”
They told me that they would buy me the best gourmet dinner in town, if I would accompany them immediately back to Merida and find them medicine. That I did. Back then at least, pharmacists could actually provide antibiotics to tourists without a doctor’s prescription.
They immediately had started feeling better after drinking the bottled water at Chichen Itza and on the bus back to the city. So, after taking antibiotics, they were able to be conversant dinner companions as I feasted that evening on a Caribbean seafood platter that evening. I learned much about Montreal, Quebec and Canada that I never knew before that evening. Gringo social studies textbooks back then had about two pages on Canada!
The next day, we toured the Colonial Era buildings in Merida and at least on the short term, became good friends from our mixed French-English conversations. They knew absolutely nothing about the Southeastern United States and were surprised that Atlanta was almost as large as Montreal.
There was no bus service to many of the lesser known archaeological sites in remote areas that Dr. Piña-Chan had assigned to me. Therefore, I had hired a Maya guide and vehicle to study Yucatan. I invited the three mademoiselles to join me on the journeys. They paid for an additional day so we could go see Tulum on the northeast coast of Yucatan. They then flew back to Montreal while I headed farther south into the Maya country.
Marcelle and I traded letters after we returned to our respective homelands. However, my long distance romance with Alicia was heating up, so I really did not try to continue communications with Montreal. The experience was a short, but very educational chapter in my Mexican fellowship that summer.
Bonjour Lucie, Marcelle and Ginette, wherever you are today!