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  • Brian D. Hinson

The Mayan Ruins Of Copán, Honduras



To access the Mayan ruins of Copán, close to the Guatemalan border in Honduras, we had to ditch the rental jeep, walk through customs, and hire a ride the rest of the way. The ride was the back of an old brown pickup truck, the charge was pocket change. My girlfriend Tracy and I hopped in with a Canadian couple and off we went. But the route wasn’t directly to the ruins.


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We passed through a village first, where the driver took on more passengers. Soon the truck bed was filled with locals headed to other destinations. The village was poor and dusty, and I remember clearly the child on the street with a bandage over the center of his face, where his nose once was. This was 1996, just months after Guatemala’s decades-long civil war had ended. Google is showing several $100/night hotels there now.


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At the ruins entrance we were dropped off. We had already visited several ruins sites in Guatemala on this trip, so we were prepared for more of the same. The art here was very different, a distinctive and bizarre style. The faces and bodies chiseled in stone had more realism, and all the art had finer detail. It was still very recognizably Mayan, but a different artist crew ran this place. Which, by the way, had been continuously occupied for 2,000 years.


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Temples, a ball court, a sacrificial altar, stelae, a stepped pyramid--everything was here that was popular in other Mayan cities. But it was that distinctive, and strange, style that made it my favorite, even though it was not nearly as huge as the sites of Tikal, Uxmal, or Chichen Itza.




After we spend the day marveling and taking photos, we headed back. The Canadians hitched a ride with us back to…I don’t remember the name of the town we stayed at next. But it was far enough away that half the journey was in the dark. One of our headlights went out and the male part of the Canadian couple had mechanic experience. We popped the hood and he studied the issue, me holding a flashlight, and rewired it so both headlights worked.


Not much further into the drive I made Tracy pull over. It was an emergency: I was on the verge of shitting my pants. The darkness was total and the road here split uninhabited forest. So, into the trees I ran with a roll of toilet paper from the backpack. I was thankful that I didn’t have to have her pull over anymore before we reached our hotel.


But I will emphasize the paramount importance of always having toilet paper within reach.

That and seeing the Mayan ruins of Central America and Mexico.


These two books by Joyce Kelly are indispensable as guides for the ruins and as tomes of historical and cultural information.

An Archaeological Guide to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula


An Archaeological Guide to Northern Central America : Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and el Salvador

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