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Izamal, the golden town of Yucatan

Izamal, the golden town of Yucatan
Izamal, the golden town of Yucatan

Izamal is a golden mirage. All streets and houses of the town they have their facades painted of the same egg yellow color. A random choice? Perhaps Yucatecan “revenge” for the Spanish conquistadors’ attempt to erase their ancestral religious beliefs.

The supreme god of the Mayas, Itzammá, was worshiped in this town that had a dozen pyramids. And Kinich-Kakmo, the sun god, also received great attention. Precisely on the main pyramidal center, the colonizers built the impressive convent of San Antonio de Padua, today one of the great monuments of the town. But sun worship continues in that golden yellow color that, obsessively, floods Izamal. It has even reached the convent area, so perhaps the conquerors did not achieve their goal, but, without almost noticing it, they were engulfed by the cult of the local gods.

There is no house, shop, arch, a public or private building that is not painted in gold in Izamal. And its inhabitants review and review the color, each year they renew the painting so that the shiny aspect of the city does not fade.

Stroll through Izamal, on the peninsula of Yucatan (Mexico), is an exercise in hypnotic chromaticism. And its inhabitants have even incorporated singles trompe l’oeil so that a humble grocery business can simulate the entrance to a hermitage. Or a most vulgar building to become a place to cross winding arches stalked by mythological animals.

Today there are still pyramids that can be visited within the urban area of ​​Izamal. The most spectacular is Kinich-Kakmó. It must be recognized, however, that part of the colonizers’ endeavor was successful, because today the Franciscan convent it rises –literal, it sits on a stone plinth– as the great artistic and tourist attraction of the city. The works ended in 1533, and they destroyed the Ppap-Hol-Chac pyramid. Today the complex contains valuable altarpieces and the image of the Guadalupe’s Virgin, making it a pilgrimage center for Catholics from all over Mexico and Central America. The founder of the convent was Fray Diego de Landa, who has gone down in history for the shameful honor of having burned the most valuable codices of the Mayan culture.

Kinich Kakmo pyramid in Izamal
Kinich Kakmo pyramid in Izamal (Edgar Machado / Getty Images)

Every night the native and colonial culture are minimally reconciled in the light and sound show that illuminates the beautiful atrium of the convent, and in which the original stones of the pyramid and it is reported how both constructions were erected.

Still, today pyramids Visitable within the urban helmet from Izamal. The most spectacular is Kinich-Kakmo, the oldest, 34 meters high, so steep that its steps are saved using a pious rope to hold on to. From there you can see part of the town and the jungle that surrounds it.

Izamal is on the list of Magical Towns of the Mexican government

Izamal invites you to wander aimlessly and to talk with its friendly citizens –some people prefer to ride it in a buggy, a well-established tourist attraction–, who feel so proud of their Mayan past like the convent that is now the lighthouse of the town. In addition, it is worth entering the sensational Cultural and Artisan Center, where there is a sample of popular art from all over the country, with a predilection for the statuettes related to death, which Mexicans see with such naturalness and joy.

Izamal is on the list of Magic towns of the Mexican government, which recognizes the localities that care for and protect their cultural heritage.

One of the streets of Izamal, the golden town of Yucatan
One of the streets of Izamal, the golden town of Yucatan (Dutodom / Getty Images)

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Written by Editorial Staff

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