Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. But Paty isn’t here today to talk about the American West; she’s here to talk about something altogether different—Guatemala, Maize, and the Maya. Learn more about Paty and her books at her website and blog.
Guatemala, Maize, and Adventure
Guatemala has been termed the “Land of Eternal Spring.” This is due to the fact most of the country has temperatures that range between 64-82° F, and humidity is rarely a problem. The temperature does cool significantly during the night. However the coastal areas and Petén jungle lowlands are hot and humid. The combination of hot and humid can drain you. The temperatures in the jungle are above 85° F, giving the lush vegetation the perfect conditions to thrive.
Many beautifully colored birds live in the lush environment, along with howler monkeys, spider monkeys, jaguar, coatie, agouti, foxes, pecarí, and leaf cutter ants.
The country is bordered by Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. It also has two coastlines--the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Besides exploring the lovely beaches there are also volcanoes, jungle, mountains, lakes, and Mayan Ruins.
The Mayan people lived in Central America and Mexico for 2500 years. During this time, as they prospered, they built cities to house their people and temples to pay homage to their gods and leaders.
Ti’kal is one of the largest urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It sits in the Petén Region of Northern Guatemala and has many visitors yearly. There has been much speculation on why the Mayan civilization declined abruptly. Some say it was because they ran out of space and workers to raise the food needed to feed their growing numbers.
The fresh fruit and vegetables in Guatemala have supplied its people with nourishment for thousands of years. The staples have always been corn, beans, and chilies. There are also plantains or bananas, yucca, carrots, celery, cucumbers, and radishes as well as papaya and mangoes.
Mayas were wonderful farmers. They learned to use different methods depending on the area where they lived. They terraced on slopes, raised fields in swamps and rivers, and slashed and burned forests to provide more land for planting. Their main crop, and what they used as currency as well as food, was maize a forerunner to the corn we have today.
The life cycle of maize was the outline the Maya used to come up with their 260 day calendar. Maize was the major substance of the Maya people. Because it could not reseed itself and required a human to plant it, maize was the symbol of Maya social existence in communion with nature.
Because it was an essential of the life of the Maya, they had bloodletting rituals to bring forth vision quests that opened portals to the otherworld, which allowed the gods to come forth and bless their crops.
Corn or maize was also an important crop for many of the North American natives and while it was revered and used in many ways, it wasn’t held as a religious icon as it was in the Maya culture.
There have been many dissertations written on the influence and co-mingling that may have occurred. What I found interesting is the fact that while the Maya did perform bloodletting rituals and some human sacrifice, these rituals were not a part of the North American cultures. In fact, the North American cultures who offered prayers and song to the Creator rather than sacrifices to the Gods appeared to have a tighter community without social classes and jealousy.
I’ve set my action adventure romance novel, Secrets of a Mayan Moon, at an archeological dig in the Guatemalan jungle.
Secrets of a Mayan Moon
What happens when a brilliant anthropologist is lured to the jungle to be used as a human sacrifice?
Child prodigy and now Doctor of Anthropology, Isabella Mumphrey, is about to lose her job at the university. In the world of publish or perish, her mentor’s request for her assistance on a dig is just the opportunity she’s been seeking. If she can decipher an ancient stone table—and she can—she’ll keep her department. She heads to Guatemala, but drug trafficking bad guys, artifact thieves, and her infatuation for her handsome guide wreak havoc on her scholarly intentions.
DEA agent Tino Kosta, is out to avenge the deaths of his family. He’s deep undercover as a jaguar tracker and sometimes jungle guide, but the appearance of a beautiful, brainy anthropologist heats his Latin blood, taking him on a dangerous detour that could leave them both casualties of the jungle.