by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
During the fellowship in Mexico, I actually slept in several of these houses. For the equivalent of $1-$2, I got a hammock to sleep in, hefty suppers and breakfasts, plus an entire Maya or Totonac house to ponder. It was not until 2005, however, when I began doing research for the Muscogee-Creek Nation that I realized that every one of these styles of houses could be found in the Creek-Chickasaw homeland. In my thesis after the fellowship, I included sketches and photos of houses, but did not mention this fact . . . even though my primary research question was to find similarities between Creek and Mesoamerican architectural traditions.
Humor . . . very different social norms
While among the Mayas and Zoque, I had to deal with some very awkward situations. Both peoples recognized that I was kin to them and treated me like a Maya priest or royalty. Other Gringos definitely did not get this treatment. At the time, I thought it was just their cultural traditions, but it indeed, I now know that I have no North American Indian DNA markers, only southern Mesoamerican and eastern Peruvian.
Just like the Creeks, prior to the early 1800s, they would line up their teenage daughters for me to chose for the night . . . for the equivalent of an extra dollar. In 1700, explorer John Lawson mentioned this custom among the South Carolina Creeks. I had just turned 21, but most of these girls seemed way too young to do such things and certainly we had little in common intellectually. When I declined, both the parents and daughters would become highly offended. Sometimes the girls even cried because they were rejected. Lawson got the same response when he was offered early adolescent Creek girls, thus also declined.
The way I solved that problem was showing the parents a photo of Teresa, the mixed-blood Maya gal at the hotel in Merida and telling them that she was my wife. The Mayas respected the institution of marriage . . . just like the Creeks did back then.
When staying at a Zoque-owned hotel near an Olmec site in southern Veracruz, the father actually handed me 400 pesos ($20) to rent his 18 year old daughter at the local brothel for the night. He invited us back to the hotel to dance and have drinks at the bar before going upstairs. We were also invited to come downstairs on Sunday morning and join the entire family for breakfast with all her younger siblings. Even though she was much closer to my age, I declined. The whole thing was just too weird and at that age, I was really not that “experienced.” As a result, the girl’s father and mother barely spoke to me the rest of the weekend, despite me claiming to be married to Alicia Moreno in Mexico City. It seems that being married and going to brothels in Mexico was considered quite the norm.
The Creek word for a winter house is choko. The Creek word a summer house is chiki. Chiki is the Totonac and Itza Maya word for a house. Choko is the Itza Maya word for warm. I have befriended a Guatemalan Maya gentleman in our community. His branch of the Maya is closely related to the Itza. We have figured out that Georgia (Eastern) Creek shares MANY nouns and adjectives with his native language, but very few verbs. For example, Chattahoochee (Chata Hawche = Marked stone-shallow river) means the same in his language and in Creek. I am not certain why there are so few shared verbs.
I am really busy, learning the new animation software and technology, so for the next few weeks, my articles will mainly consist of photos. You will get to see the remaining Maya cities that I studied in Mexico, Guatemala and British Honduras (now Belize), but not much text!
Major Humor: In 2012, the Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina and Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologist sent out national press releases, stating that “Mr. Thornton has never even known a Maya Indian.” This band of Maya insurgents was very friendly with me, but still insisted that while in their base, I remain at the side of their prettiest female warrior 24/7. She was former a college student and spoke intelligible English, so it was not exactly torture. Nevertheless, I can say with full honesty that I have “known” a full blood Maya, not just mestizo Mayas. LOL