The Maya have always been a mystery, even to themselves. This is partly on account of the lack of archeological information, and also because the Maya have all been dead so long that they hardly remember what it was like back in the good old days of Preclassic Mesoamerican Civilization. Recently, archeologists have unearthed numerous hieroglyphs, bits of microfilm and other refuse left by the Maya. In most cases these have been promptly buried again, but enough has survived to allow us, for the first time, to put together an accurate picture of the Maya and what they did after hours.
Their origin is still obscure. Some think they were simply Irish fishermen who lost their way in a storm around 500 A.D., entered a time warp and arrived in Mexico 250 years earlier. A radical school of thought speculates that the Maya did not exist at all, being only figments of their own imaginations. But this is just wishful thinking.
Whatever their origin, the Maya appeared in Mexico around 250 A.D., unpacked their valises and set about starting a civilization. Their first accomplishment was the creation of an organized religion, the Church of the Unreformed Sodomites, which was inspired by the consumption of enormous quantities of fermented llama drool, the local beverage. Snakes and pink elephants played minor roles in their mythology, the major deity being Kiwiwug, the great were-monkey, who swooped out of the jungle to suck the brains of Mayan peasants. Legend has it that Kiwiwug died of malnutrition.
The next achievement came in the field of architecture with the building of the first Mayan step pyramids. These were probably based on Egyptian models, which we now know were used to preserve fruit, mummies and edibles, and also to sharpen razor blades. Mayan pyramids were put to the same uses, with the notable exception of sharpening razor blades. Archeologists believe the Maya had no razor blades at all, which led to endless bickering between the peasants, who wanted them, and the ruling priests, who considered them “the pinnacle of bourgeois decadence.” Engravings from this period depict wild, bearded commoners confronting inexplicably clean-shaven officials. This point seems to have caused several civil wars.
It might increase our understanding of the Maya to describe the little man, the average Mayan and his occupations. We will call this average fellow “Joe,” because that was every Maya’s first name.
Joe Maya was a high school dropout who lived in a sombrero on the edge of town, along with his nagging wife (also named Joe), a small herd of sheep, and a somewhat larger herd of children. He was 5’7″, thirty-ish, with dark hair, horn-rims, and a tattoo on his left arm. He was wanted on various charges in 47 states.
Joe’s main occupations were drinking fermented llama drool, building sacrificial altars, and burying cryptic hieroglyphs for future generations to uncover. This work gave him a sense of purpose in life. In his spare time he took a stab at subsistence farming. When he had had one too many, he sometimes took a stab at his wife, just for laughs.
On the whole, Joe’s was a happy existence. His basic needs were taken care of, and his desires were few: wealth, position, power, and a clean loincloth every Tuesday.
One might well ask why such an advanced and thriving culture eventually collapsed. All we know is that shortly after coffee break, around 10:30 a.m., the Mayan civilization suddenly came to an end.
However, this is not the end of the story, because the Maya passed their civilization on to a warlike tribe called the Toltecs, who in turn pawned it off on the Aztecs. The Aztecs tried giving it to the invading Spaniards, but the conquistadors, being no fools, took the Aztecs’ gold instead. Let this be a lesson to us all.