Flat Stanley in Mexico

Submitted by Dale Hubert
Flat Stanley had a wonderful time in the Mayan Riviera. He swam with dolphins, went to some Mayan villages, visited ancient ruins and relaxed by the pools.  These flat characters are from Bronna Silver's Grade 3 class at St. Andrews Public School, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.
Flat Stanley swam in a sacred cavern

In September, 2003, Flat Stanley visited the pyramids of Egypt and in February, 2004, he visited the Mayan pyramids. Unlike the Egyptian pyramids that were built by slave labour, the Mayan people considered it an honour to build the pyramids. There are many pyramids still covered by jungle but there is not the money to excavate them.
This picture shows an area that has not been excavated.
Below is a portion that has been excavated.

The Mayan ruins were amazing! The temples of Coba and Chichen-Itza were built in the Classical Period more than 1500 years ago. 60,000 people lived in this city.

Only the Mayan priests were allowed to climb the pyramids back then, but tourists are allowed to climb them today. Flat Stanley didn’t have a fear of heights, but many tourists sure do! Flat Stanley liked watching them go back down the pyramids- many sat on their bottoms and went down very slowly, one step at a time.
At the top of the pyramid in Chichen-Itza a woman recognized Flat Stanley. She had used him in her classroom and now teaches teachers at a college. She posed with Flat Stanley in the room at the very top. Here are some pictures of Flat Stanley at the top of the pyramid and the view of the surrounding ruins and jungle.


Even the experts disagree about important parts of Mayan life. For example, the Mayans played a game with a large rubber ball that weighed 8 kilograms. The team captains tried to put the ball through the stone hoop. In one version of the game they couldn‘t use their hands or feet- they had to use their hips. Another way of playing used sticks that were used like racquets. You can see the stone hoops in these pictures. We’ve all played games like this, but here’s the interesting part about this game- when the game was over, one of the team captains was put to death. Some experts say it was the captain of the losing team who was killed and some say it was the captain of the winning team who was killed.

Ancient Basketball or Quidditch?
There are good arguments for each side. Those who say the losing captain was killed say the game was a type of test. Those who passed the test would be able to go on to the next test, while those who failed would not be able to go on. Those who say the captain of the winning team was put to death say the Mayans believed the gods needed to be fed blood. The best food was the blood of the best athletes. It was an honour to be killed for the sake of the gods. All that we know for sure is that the game was a very important part of Mayan culture and that someone was killed after each game.

Flat Stanley didn’t like the part about the blood. He turned pale when he heard that Mayans used the sharp part from sting rays to pierce their bodies and bleed. They even pushed the sharp spine through their tongues, ears and other sensitive places, then burned the blood with incense as an offering to the gods. Later on in Mayan civilization, after the arrival of the Tolteks, human sacrifices were added to their rituals. Things are very quiet at Chichen-Itza now, apart from the tourists, but many years ago this place was known for the blood and the human sacrifices.
The arrival of the Spanish in 1572 changed Mayan life forever. That is why Spanish is the language spoken by so many Mexicans today. The Spanish were very cruel to the Mayan people. The Spanish leader, Cortez, insisted that he be allowed to climb to the top of the pyramid at Chichen-Itza but when he got to the top the remains from all the sacrifices almost made him sick.

The priests and leaders of the ancient Mayans had a very important role. It was believed they could communicate with the gods and ask the rain gods to make it rain by giving gifts of blood and sacrifice. Unfortunately, there was a very bad drought that lasted for years. The Mayan people lost faith in the powers of their leaders and even had many of them killed. When the priests and royal families were gone, there was no one to continue the Mayan traditions and the culture collapsed.
Don't forget, though- there are still Mayans today.  Here are three who made lunch for Flat Stanley and his friends.  they posed with him, but didn't really understand him.  Imagine trying to explain the Flat Stanley Project to people who don't speak much English and don't have electricity or the Internet.