Tulum: Eyewitnesses to the Encounter of Two Worlds

An interpretive text from Tulum, the most heavily trafficked archaeological site that we visited, invites the tourist to imagine the first encounter between the Spanish and the ancient inhabitants of Tulum from two different perspectives.  This encounter, it tells us, is the first moment in the creation of a new cultural order.

The painted reconstruction of that moment of encounter is imagined from the native point of view, but written description asks the reader to imagine him or herself as the Spanish conquistador, Juan de Grijalva, seeing the people of Tulum for the first time.

You are Juan de Grijalva, the Spanish captain.

You sail from Cuba on an exploratory voyage.

You landed on the an island (Cozumel) surrounded by reefs, where people hide when they saw you.

Now you are sailing along a coast, near a city with large buildings and towers that remind you of far-away Seville.  You don’t land, you sail away.

You ask yourself: Who are they?  What riches do they have?  Are they dangerous?

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