Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Joya de Cerén, El Bouqueron, and the National Bird


Called the "Pompeii of the Americas", Joya de Cerén is an ancient village that was covered by a volcanic eruption in AD590. Joya de Cerén is one of the most important archaeological finds in Central America and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Combined with the beautifully landscaped grounds and the resident torogoz, this is a "must see" site.

The people must have had some time to escape, because no human remains have been found, but buildings, household items, food, and cultivated plants have been found. In the visitor center the treasures are nicely displayed and well described in both Spanish and English.



The excavated buildings are covered with metal roofs to prevent damage, but strategically placed skylights illuminate each structure. From the raised walkways, the buildings look unbelievably small. I know the Mayans were short, but I wished they had placed figures next to them to help us get a sense of the scale. Above is the shaman's building which was more elaborate than the others. The darker, angled buttress-like stuff is unexcavated volcanic debris that is helping to support the ancient structure.
 This is the actual sweat house.......
and this is a reproduction of the sweat house that you can crawl into. Similar to a modern sauna, it has a hearth in the center and a bench around the perimeter. There is a vent on the roof to allow excess heat to escape and a thatch roof to protect the mud walls.

 The national bird of El Salvador is the Torogoz (Turquoise-browed Motmot or Eumomota superciliosa) and we actually saw some at Joya de Cerén. My photo is on the left, and a professional photo of the bird is on the right. What a beautiful bird! Unfortunately, they build their nests in mud banks and the excavated ruins look like mud banks to them, so to keep them out wire screens surround most of the ruins.
We also drove to Parque El Boquerón which is at an altitude of 6000'. After sweating in the tropical heat for months, is felt wonderful to be up in the cool misty air. The path to the edge of the volcano was lined with ferns, pine trees, yuccas, and mangoes. The scent of pine needles was wonderfully refreshing and we enjoyed this site immensely.

After leaving the park we walked along the road past these beautiful fruit/vegetable/flower stalls. We couldn't resist buying some strawberries and some tiny white onions. Then we walked up to an unassuming open-air restaurant and had the BEST Salvadoran meal ever: beef, chicken, shrimp and those tiny onions roasted over an open fire. Who would have thought we'd find this in El Salvador?

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