the Yucatan & Casa Hamaca
Help Wanted: Archaeology or Art Conservation/Restoration student, professional or interested Amateur 
Three years ago I had the following mural painted in the grand salon of Casa Hamaca Guesthouse. It is based on a roll-out of a Mayan vase.

I really liked it but various people told me it was too much! So I had it pained over with another mural of Palenque after an original by Catherwood. This morning I came across the above photo and remembered just how much I like the original mural. So I am offering room and board at Casa Hamaca to someone who can "strip" the new mural, exposing the old one.
Not sure if they were done with oil-based or water-based paints. Not sure of the period of time between paintings. Not sure of many of the details. However, if you (or someone you know) might be interested in this project, contact me at or at Thanks for any leads.

The same place I found the photo of the old mural, I found a photo of the gardens taken in July 2007. From the same vantage point, now you cannot see the main building of Casa Hamaca... that's how much the garden has grown. Here's the "Then" photo.

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Harvesting Wild Vanilla in the Yucatan 
How to harvest wild vanilla plants in the Yucatan. The plants (a type of orchid) will be transplanted to the gardens of Casa Hamaca where they will climb avocado trees. The flowers will be very beautiful, however, I hope to actually harvest vanilla beans in the future if the local species of Melipona bee is around to pollinate the flowers.

Wikipedia says "Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, due to the extensive labor required to grow the vanilla seed pods. Despite the expense, it is highly valued for its flavor, which author Frederic Rosengarten, Jr. described in The Book of Spices as "pure, spicy, and delicate" and its complex floral aroma depicted as a "peculiar bouquet." Despite its high cost, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture and aromatherapy." See:
for the full article.
YouTube video of the harvest

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Reading Glasses Distribution on Three Small Mayan Villages 
The women of Christ Lutheran Church, Woodcliff Lake, NJ, USA, donated a large number of new reading glasses to give away in the Yucatan of Mexico. Some of the staff of Casa Hamaca Guesthouse ( and I gave out over 120 pair of reading glasses on April 23, 2010 in three small villages in the Yucatan: Dzitox, Chan X-cail and San Pedro. We spent about two hours in each of the villages letting the people try on varying-strength reading glasses and attempt to read the paper. Many of the people also needed distance lenses but for distance we only had some used (donated) glasses without any idea of what strengths they were. However, some worked and the recipients went away very happy. Especially happy were the young kids who were having trouble learning to read because they needed corrective lens to help them. They went away with very big smiles. If you are interested in philanthropic, volunteer or cultural opportunities in the Yucatan, please contact or See a video at:

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the Apocalypse or just another day in Paradise? 

Deal of Your Lifetime
End of the World at the Center of the World
€10,000 per night per person for December 21, 2012

the Apocalypse or just another day in Paradise?

Where will you and your loved ones be on December 21, 2012?
Will it be the end of the world as we know it?
A time of transition from one World Age into another.
A shift in consciousness?
Or simply the end of one cycle of the Mayan calendar and the beginning of another?
A time of rebirth? or a time of destruction?

Why Here?
Valladolid is near the "bellybutton" of the universe according to ancient Mayan tradition, so it might be the rebirth. Valladolid is near the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and of Ek Balam, both of which are regarded as cosmic energy centers, so it might be a time of transition or a shift of consciousness. But Valladolid is also near the site where the great meteror of about 65,000,000 years ago slammed into Earth at Chichilub, Yucatan, and wiped out the dinosaurs, so it could be the end of the world as we know it.
Casa Hamaca Guesthouse is rated #1 Bed and Breakfast in Valladolid as reviewed by guests on Trip Advisor. And, reading between the lines, it is the best lodging of any kind for 100 miles around, in any direction. So, if you have to be somewhere for the end of the world, it might as well be here... at the epicenter of events... or just another day in paradise.

End of the World at the Center of the World Special:
€10,000 per night per person for December 21, 2012, perhaps the last Winter Solstice of our lifetime.

Reservations now being accepted for the End of the World. This date is the end of a 25,000 year cycle of the Mayan calendar. And according to the film 2012, it also might be the end of the world as we know it.

Cost per person per night from Dec.15 to Dec. 20, 2012: €100. Full breakfast included.

Cost per person for the night of Dec. 21, 2012: €10,000. A special Last Supper included.
Cost per person for the night of Dec. 22, 2012: no charge for survivors who were paid guests on Dec. 21, 2012. Gala Brunch included on the 22nd. Full breakfast included on the morning of the 23rd.

Cost per person per night from Dec. 23, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2012: €100. Full breakfast included

All king suites and twin suites: two person minimum
Triple suite: three person minimum
Queen double suites: four person minimum
Dormitory accommodations in hammocks: Take 15% off above rates. Maximum 15 persons.

All reservations must be prepaid IN FULL (just in case).
No refunds.
Email Denis for details: or

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Ten Top Things to See in the Valladolid, Yucatan, Area.  
Note: As opposed to some lists, I make no pretense of being able to prioritize these ten attractions. All are worth seeing. Some will have greater interest to various individuals than will others.

10. The Museo San Roque. Located one block from the Palacio Municipal in a de-consecrated church. Contains a wide variety of Proto-Mayan, Mayan and Colonial artifacts and exhibits. A bit dusty and in need of some up-grades, it is, nevertheless, worth seeing when you are al centro.

9. The Cenote Zaci. Located just a few short blocks from the main square (parque principal or zocalo) of Valladolid.
A Palapa-style restaurant (with the only wheelchair access to a restaurant in Valladolid of which I am aware. Unfortunately, the bathrooms in the restaurant as not easily accessible by wheelchair. Casa Hamaca is the only hotel or lodging in the area with wheelchair access). The restaurant serves good Yucatec-style food... but the real reason to go there is to eat or drink, in the shade, while overlooking the beautiful cenote. Plus, if you have a beverage or food at the restaurant, you will be invited to enter the centore from their private entrance at no cost. If you enter the public entrance, you must pay somewhere in the neighborhood of USD$2. The cenote is partially covered and partially open to the sky with a walk-way with both ramps and steps going all the way around. Th walkway decends to water level at one point to allow access to the water. A "No Swimming" sign is sometimes posted, but there seem to be people in the water at all times of day.

8. Murals in the Palacio Municipal. Located at the southeast corner of the zocalo on the second floor. Enter the building next door to the tourist office and go up one floor to the murals that depict the history of the Mayans and colonials of the Valladolid area beginning with pre-hispanic images through the revolution of the early 1900's. Powerful images!

7. The entire town of Izamal. Located less than one hour distance form Valladolid, Izamal is caught in a time warp. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride around town to get a feel for for the historic district and then go off on foot to explore the pyramids, the convent and the shops.

6. The Mayan Ruins of Cobá. Located less than one hour drive from Valladolid on a usually good road, the ruins of Cobá are different than most of the ruins of the Yucatan. The form of the main pyramid is more like that of Tikal in Guatemala than it is of of others in the north. As of this writing, you can still climb most of the structures, including the main pyramid. The site is very large and includes some lakes (lagunas) with crocs drozing in the sun. You have the options of walking the ruins, renting a bicycle or hiring a tricycle powered by a guide. The last option is worth considering since you can cover a lot of ground and have some idea of what you are seeing. Make any agreements before your leave the rental area including time of your tour as well as what parts of the ruins are included. If you want more time or extensive viewing, make your deal before you start. These ruins are almost Indiana Jones-like as you walk/ride through the jungle, turn a corner and suddenly are confronted with a pyramid that had been hidden from view until you turned the corner. Lots of fun for all ages.

5. The cenotes of Dzitnup... there are two of more or less the same form... an underground dome with a hole in the ceiling to the world outside with swim-able water. One is the most photographed cenote in the Yucatan (the one on the left as you approach the town of Dzitnup from the Merida-Valladolid free road); the other (on the right) is much less visited, but equally beautiful. Both are worth visiting. If you are really into cenotes, there are lots of options in any direction from Valladolid. All are swim-able, some have more amenities than others

4. Casa de los Venados, a private home just off the main square of Valladolid. The owners, John and Dorianne Venator, have completed a ten year renovation and expansion of one of the early historic building of Valladolid. More importantly, they have over 3,500 pieces of Mexican folk art on display. The house is a living museum. However, since it is a private home, you need specific permission of John or Dorianne to view the house and contents.

3. The Mayan ruins of Ek Balam are located an easy 25 minute drive north of Valladolid. The site is compact and easily visited in two hours. The main pyramid is higher than the main pyramid at Chichen Itza and, by volume, is one of the largest in the Yucatan. At this writing, you can still climb almost all of the structures. Be sure to check out the tomb entrance slightly over halfway up the main pyramid. If you have the time, walk all the way around the main pyramid to get a feeling of just how big the structure is. The front and one side is more or less completely restored, but the rest is as the archaeologists found it. Currently, there is active restoration work going on. Lots of fun to watch if possible.

2. The cave of Balankanche about five kilometers from the ruins of Chichen Itza. In the late 1960's a guide from Chichen, who was a spelunker, was exploring a local cave when he found a hidden passageway that lead to a secret Mayan ceremonial site that had been know and used by the local people for hundreds of years. After much negotiation, the cave and ceremonial site opened as a national park. The cave is well lighted and easy walking. You are not allowed into the cave without a guide. Tours, in various, languages leave frequently from the visitor center.

1. Chichen Itza... one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Show up at the site early in the morning (gates open as early as 8:00 AM) so you can park in the shade... arrival before 9:30 usually will still get your car a good spot. Early arrival also means it will be less hot with fewer tourists. At about 11:00 AM, the big tour busses start arriving from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. On a busy day there will be over 100 of the big busses, dozens of big tour van and uncounted private cars. Most of them will arrive after 10:30 or so. Since you are no longer allowed to climb or enter any of the structures at Chichen, get there early before the crowds, take your photos and go to El Balam to climb something. Or linger at Chichen Itza if shopping is your thing. There are hundreds of vendors both in and outside the grounds.

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