The Kukulkan pyramid in Chichén Itzá

by Julián Herbert

Am Mittelmeer. Menschen auf neuen Wegen (Ausgabe III/2012)

I was 28 years old, had given up coke, quit my job in a director's office and had run away with a minor. That's when my father moved to Mexico City. On the way there, he would drive through the southern states of Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Campeche, Tabasco, Veracruz and Puebla. Since we had nothing else to do, my girlfriend and I decided to accompany him and his wife Marta on the long journey.

Our first stop was Chichén Itzá. It was September and the Mayan ruined city was teeming with tourists. On that day, as happens every year, a strange spectacle would take place. A snake of light and shadow would crawl over the stone slabs of one of the two remaining steps of the pyramid. A tail of two-coloured scales would reach up to the head of Kukulkan. Kukulkan is what the Maya call a figure from the Nahuatl mythology, better known as Quetzalcoatl, the feathered snake.

At first sight, the central building of the complex did not particularly impress me. Too often I had seen the outline of the pyramid printed on postcards, T-shirts and matchboxes. However, my attitude towards "the castle" changed as the hours passed. The sun reflecting on the side of a staircase created an extraordinary, well-calculated optical effect of fanning shadows. Suddenly I saw Kukulkan meandering down from the altar of the pyramid to its base.

I decided to climb up the stairs. I was overcome by a dizziness that I remember to this day. I had the impression that the stone steps on which I was walking liquefied. They opened like the Red Sea before Moses. The pyramid exchanged its hard skin for something organic and fluid: a reptile of light.

similar articles

Nonstop (The talk of the town in ...)

... Nuevo León

von Cristina Vidrutiu, Alina de Luna Aldape

On the eve of International Women's Day 2019, thirty of the forty deputies in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon voted to criminalize abortions. Since then, there has been much discussion about whether women have the power to decide over their own bodies.


A story goes around the world (World report)

A big step backwards

by Shi Ming

Cultural relations between China and the West have been steadily expanded over decades. But under Xi Jinping the dialogue has ground to a standstill. Are we about to wind back the clock?


Am Mittelmeer. Menschen auf neuen Wegen (Cultural spots)

The Kukulkan pyramid in Chichén Itzá

by Julián Herbert

"El Castillo" ("the castle"), the famous Kukulkan pyramid of the ruins of Chichén Itzá, I saw for the first time a few days after I decided not to be young anymore.


Earth, how are you doing? (Cultural spots)

Dunhuang crescent moon lake

by He Yulei

An oasis couldn't be more beautiful, with a moon-shaped lake and surrounded by “singing” dunes.


Neuland (Cultural spots)

The Nioushoushan temple in Nanjing

by Sebastian Mayer

Reaching six stories under the ground, the state-of-the-art temple only opens its doors to the most powerful people in China


Someone else's paradise (In practice)

Stealing the show

by Sahar Mechri Kharrat

The cultural project “Tunisia88” introduces young people to a whole new world of music.