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The Maya’s Cultural Influence Extends Well Beyond Mexico, Throughout Central America

When most people think of the Maya, their minds jump immediately to Mexico, but this ancient civilization exerted profound influence throughout Central America.

As a native of El Salvador and an expert in Mesoamerican anthropology and archaeology for National Geographic, I’m here to take you on the ultimate cultural journey through the Maya of Central America — from places that were inhabited more than 10,000 years ago, to Maya cities built at the time of Christ, to modern towns that celebrate their ancient heritage in unexpected ways.

El Salvador

Los Izalcos: Los Izalcos is a mountainous region and major cacao producer in pre-Columbian times. Today, coffee that moves the local economy. The towns of Izalco, Nahuizalco, Apaneca, Ataco, and Juayua all have ancient roots — and the combination of native and Christian beliefs is celebrated by the largely indigenous communities with dances and festivals honoring local history. Apaneca is also well known for great culinary traditions. I recommend ordering up a round of tamales and some atol de elote (sweet-corn milk drink) or chocolate caliente (Spanish-style hot chocolate) for an afternoon treat.

Cerro Verde and Lake Coatepeque: A short distance from the Izalcos is a great volcanic region. I recommend heading to Cerro Verde National Park, where you’ll find a lookout that provides a fantastic panoramic view of Izalco Volcano – a now-dormant stratovolcano that was formed in the 1770s and continually erupted for two hundred years — and an impressive orchid garden. From Cerro Verde, head to Lake Coatepeque (Snake Mountain in Nahuatl). The road that connects the sites circumnavigates the volcano’s magnificent crater…

Read more: National Geographic


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