The Natural and Sacred World of Chocolá
Lying literally in the shadows of active volcanoes, Chocolá
is located in the upper reaches of the Guatemalan piedmont or Bocacosta,
a narrow strip of land interlaced with fast-flowing rivers and situated
between the volcano-rich Sierra Madre mountain chain and broad coastal
plains sweeping to the Pacific. The Bocacosta is prime agricultural
terrain; ethnohistory attests that the area was a great ancient
coffee and sugar cane are the principal cash crops, but a wide variety
of fruits and vegetables are cultivated for local consumption including
avocado, cacao, maize, mandarin oranges, mangoes, and papaya as
well as many delicious indigenous vegetables known by their Mayan
names (chiltepe, huicoy, huiskil, pitaya). A visit to the Saturday
market in adjacent larger towns (Santa Tomás and San Antonio
Suchitepéquez) literally dazzles with the array of produce
of the deepest rifts in the planet’s tectonics runs east to
west through Guatemala to the north of Chocolá; the land
is alive, with temblors shaking the old plantation buildings fairly
frequently, and one can understand, in such an environs, why the
ancient Maya conceived of the earth as a living entity. Many caves
with natural springs flowing from them are witness to the undoubted
power of the landscape anciently for the Maya at the dawning of
their great civilization.
and Other Animals
countryside surrounding Chocolá remains rich in fauna, ranging
from tropical birds to various indigenous mammals.
lies in a rich agricultural region in which coffee is a key cash
crop, although a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are produced
for local consumption. In addition to crops of banana, coffee and
rubber, southwestern Guatemala is rich with beautiful forest filled
with exotic flowers and majestic canopy.
Water, Water, Water ... and Caves and Mountains/Witsob,
essential (yet taken for granted!) as is water to Western consumers,
anciently water was considered sacred to the Maya. With its astonishing
superabundance of water in the form of 5 m of rain annually, fast-flowing,
high-discharge streams and rivers, and many natural springs, judging
from the decision apparently to locate edifices near water sources,
in prehispanic times Chocolá must have been as much a human
waterscape as a human landscape.
extraordinary sophistication and scale of the hydraulics discovered
by the project to date document the intelligence of the decision-making
and the value placed on this resource by the ancient Chocolenses.
The caves from which these springs emanate, and the mountains behind
the town, belong to the most sacred ancient Maya template. As an
Earthwatch volunteer from the 2005 season has observed, archaeoastromical
evidence points still more emphatically to particular alignments
of the heavenly bodies to this sacredly fertile landscape.
it is entirely reasonable to suppose that Chocolá was chosen
as the site for a Maya version of Augustine’s City of God,
with primordial Maya ideological innovations that grew from roots
in the seminal Southern area, like the ceiba trees that once were
numerous at the site, into a towering presence in Classic Maya times.