Time Patrol. Mexico


My first trip to Mexico was to Yucatán. Land of the Maya. I was in Grad school at the Univershity of Alabamer, Tuscalooser. A good friend of mine then, Victor E. was from Mérida. I saw him at the cafeteria in Mary’s Hall. “Hey Victor. What’s up man?” “Great” he says. “I’m going home in the summer.” “Really? How come?” “Ahmona take a summer course in Mérida with (Dr) Baklanoff and Moseley”. Victor spoke fluent Southern. “I know Moseley”, I say. “What’s the course about?” “It’s an undergrad Maya anthropology course” Victor says. “Seriously? I loved Prescott’s ‘Conquest of Mexico’ (See above) Maybe I should talk to (Dr) Moseley.” “I think you should. What’s for lunch?”


I talked to (Dr) Moseley. he was the head of Latin-American studies. He’d also awarded me a very welcome scholarship fro the second year of my MBA. He told me there was still room to enroll. That they would be delighted to have me for the summer course. And no, I could not apply those credits in Maya anthropology to my MBA. (Above: Uxmal, ’78)


Uxmal is not as well known as other Maya sites such as Chichén-Itzà, but it has the world’s only “round” pyramid. The edgdes are rounded up. This is the temple of the soothsayer. The city (Uxmal means thrice built) was built between 600 and 1000 AD. And as all Maya cities was inexplicably abandoned after the year 1000, before the Spanish conquest.


Dr Coombs fooling around below representations of Chac-Mool, one of the most important Maya deities. We were a group of 20 or so students, mostly undergrad, a couple of grad students and half a dozen PhD’s. We had class at the hotel every other morning with field trips every afternoon and every other day. Imagine going to the most famous archeological sites with world authorities on Maya anthropology. Dr Baklanoff was the boss. And he would decipher for us inscriptions in Maya, such as the one on the stella above.


On the road to Itzamná. The Maya used to live (and some still do) in thatched huts such as this one. The same huts are featured on the façade of one of the temples. (Looking for that shot) (Yucatán peninsula, 1978. Times of Doonesbury)


A typical corbel arch. The Maya did not use the vault developed in European cathedrals in the middle ages where the keystone supports the weight of the walls. As a result, the Maya arches are narrower. (The vault dates back to Mesopotamia in the second millenium BC) On the above, there are two Chaac Mools on either side of the arch.


Street art “avant la lettre”. The bread bearer(ess) wears the traditional dress, called huipil.


At a henequen semi-abandoned factory. The leaves of a species of agave produced fibers suitable for ropes and twines. A large industry developed in Yucatán. Until the decline of ships and the advent of synthetic fibers made it obsolete.


Local boys take the guys up for soccer. On the left: Walter. A very nice guy for a Frat brat. Don’t remember the other guy’s name. (Write the names on your albums while you still can!)


“Francés caliente”. Hot French. 🙂 Pan Francés, French toast, is called Pain perdu in French. It was done to soften old dried up bread. One did not throw bread away. Ever. I still remember the first time my mother made us Pain perdu. Delicious.


Uxmal, 1978. l. to r. Francie and Pauline. Both “inspired” me two great characters for the first novel I ever wrote, Iguana.

For those interested in technicalities, all photos with Asahi-Pentax, 50mm lens. I don’t remember the F-stops.

Captain and crew thank you for flying Equinoxio’s Time-Space shuttle. To be continued…


53 thoughts on “Time Patrol. Mexico

    • Absolutely. Every small hill around is a temple waiting. (See Catherwood as well). The local archeological authority has made a policy some years ago to not excavate anymore. Unless there is a very good reason. It preserves the ruins from erosion and theft.

      • Yes, indeed. And I always wonder how the spirit of the late sixties and early seventies based on freedom, led to one of the most materialistic and narcissistic cultures in History… 😦

      • Probably…but that is what happens…these things evolve and we just run along, without being able to do much about it. In our country we are experiencing a mass extinction of our farmers and our goverment cronies have captured all goverment institutions and are busy stripping them bare. I feel very negative.I think you understand this,because you grew up in Africa.

      • I totally understand. Africa has been my greatest disappointment. And all by their own doing. So I get a bit… annoyed when I hear idiots who don’t know a thing complain about the exactions of colonialism… Even Kenya is falling apart. Tsss.

      • And yes… It does seem ages away.
        But it’s all right. The things we did, the things we saw…
        Are unique. (I saw Bob Marley in concert in Harlem in 1979.
        That is unique…)
        Tot ziens

      • Yes and no. I am (we can be) quite pleased to have lived through those times. Which were quite unique. I only have two concerns: wildlife and nature are practically gone. And the human race is so stupid there will likely be war again.

      • Hannah Arendt said that every newborn human being has to “re-invent” the world. There is no other way. But that places education at the centre of things. Otherwise, in this perpetual re-invention, the same mistakes occur over and over again. Now how many hours of history does one take at school?

      • Not many hours, except if you choose history as a main subject. Furthermore history gets distorted by the rulers of the day. I have experienced it twice in my lifetime, with two regimes, who preach their own history as facts!

  1. Loved this one. I think B/W is my favorite type of picture.
    That Corbel arch seems to have been built in two sessions. Original was a triangle, then the lower sides were added to form an arrow-shaped opening pointing up (or forward?)
    Francie and Pauline – great shot! 😉

    (yeah, I’m still here… for now, until WP F-s things up completely…)

    • Very, very happy to see you here still. B&W? I used to do a lot. (Cheaper that colour to print) 🙂 Might have been Ilford. I used that a lot then.
      Corbel arch? Possible. I remember an entire morning class dedicated to corbel arches!
      And yes, that las shot is one of my favourites. Be good Dragos

  2. Brilliant never ever seen a rounded pyramid and doubt I would …. so thanks to you.
    Odd that pyramids are found in many parts of the earth, apparently. I wonder why?

    • Has to do with… the way some materials shape up. Mexican pyramids were built on a pile of rumble. (Think a sand pile) then walls and stairs were added on. The trick was to build a temple to the gods higher in the sky. Parallel development. Just as most human houses have 4 walls and a roof…

  3. Wish my uni had the sort of extra-curricular activities your had, Brian! Never knew a ’round’ pyramid existed, thanks to the Shuttle and Dr Coombs & Baklanoff! Fabrizio

    • This was actually full curriculum. On-site summer course in Mayan anthropology. All the undergrads took credit. I couldn’t because I was in the MBA programme. Didn’t matter. One the best courses I ever took. 🙂

  4. I loved Uxmal while I was there. I found it far more beautiful than some of the rest. It is so fun to see some of your older photos compared to mine taken five + years ago. It has changed and it has stayed the same. Great post.

  5. You are the perfect guide to time travel with Brian. Love them ‘vintage’ photos…so 70s 🙂 Uxmal is going into my Mexico ‘must do’ list.

    • Haha! Thank you Lisa. The last one was really… chance. The two girls were just sitting there. Taking a break. Francie in the front, was tired. Closed her eyes for a second. I saw the scene and pressed a finger.

  6. I think it was the summer before my first year of college and my brother’s first year of high school (maybe the summer after), our parents told us they were going to the Yucatan with my uncle and aunt and we were on our own for two weeks and gave me a bunch of money. The shock on our faces pleased my mother to no end.

    My brother and I wanted to encourage this behavior in our parents, but quickly realized that if our friends found out, they would trash our house with some giant party. So we didn’t tell anyone. I took my brother to Rocky Horror Picture Show with me and stuff like that, but mum was the word.

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