While having breakfast in friendly Suchitoto, I read about the ruins of Cihuatán, suggesting that this late-Mayan city was ruled by women. Curious to see the remains of this matriarchal society, I at once decide to jump on the bus to Aguilares. I make sure to get off at the crossroads of the main road north of the city, and get on a north bound bus that stops right at the turn-off for my destination. An armed policeman warns me for dogs, advising me to carry some stones, and an older man walks with me. He is on his way to visit a 94 year old, and is thrilled to talk to a stranger from far away. We end up hugging before I walk the straight road heading east that takes me directly to the entrance. There is a sign that, until further notice, entrance is free, and I walk to the small museum where I learn more about the ruins of what for a long time was the largest city of El Salvador with over 25,000 inhabitants, until San Salvador overtook it in the late 19th century. Cihuatán was destroyed by fire between 1150-1200CE, after having existed for some 150 years, and it was never rebuilt.
Close to the museum, I find a gate in the fence protecting the ruins of Cihuatán, and walk past the ruins of the protective city wall with a few pages with an auto-guide that I have just bought for 50 cents. It sets out a walk around the excavated part of the almost 1000 years ruins. The wall was probably once topped by palisades to protect against invasions. On my left, I see platforms which once were temples according to my paper guide. After rounding the corner, the wall is no longer excavated, and I now see its continuation as it has been for many centuries: overgrown by vegetation. I now come to the more interesting section of the ruins. First, I walk past two more temples, and the come to the north ball court. Two parallel walls, I-shaped, between which the famous Mayan ball game was once played. Close by are the ruins of another temple, and a temascal, a hot steam bath. Towards the south, I now see the pyramid, the most remarkable structure of Cihuatán.
After a short walk across part of the grass-covered plaza, following the white stones that demarcate where visitors are supposed to walk, I come to some trees. A herd of goats starts following me, bleating and coming always closer. From a viewpoint, I see the Guazapa volcano, and I can easily see it resembles a lady lying on her back. In fact, Cihuatán means place of the woman, which is probably why I read this would have been a matriarchal society (there is no mention of this in the museum or the guide I am carrying). It is time to climb the metal ladder bring me to the top of the pyramid, from where I have perfect views over the plaza and beyond. I now realise I am the only person around: the plaza, the platforms, the pyramid and ball courts are empty. Criss-crossing the plaza, I find a circular temple and a rectangular platform with stairs on all four sides. These were once topped by wattle and daub or adobe houses, topped by thatched roofs, and probably painted. This city was once a bustling centre of trade, but now, I am surrounded by silence. Nothing lasts forever.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Cihuatán (El Salvador). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Cihuatán. Read more about this site.