Mundo Maya: Gaining Insight

Rick Frehsee is a Florida-based photojournalist and self-taught Maya specialist who has visited more than 100 Maya sites. He also conducts travel agent seminars for Grupo Taca, the Latin American airline comprising five Central American carriers. In an interview, Frehsee explains why this is an especially good time to urge clients to visit Mundo Maya.

"We can now interpret 80% or more of the hieroglyphs [found on Maya ruins] and in the last 10 to 15 years have retrieved an entire history of the Maya civilization," Frehsee says.

"Every digging season at the major Maya sites, there are a great many new discoveries. It makes it so much more exciting. You're not just looking at a dead empire. You're looking at a civilization that truly had a fascinating history. The key to Mundo Maya today is not just the majesty of the Maya sites, but rather the real American history that has so recently come to light."

In his presentations to agents, Frehsee emphasizes that the ongoing discoveries at Maya archaeological sites and growing understanding of the Maya civilization, which flourished between A.D. 250 and 900, allow visitors to do more than simply appreciate the grandeur of the sites.

Today's visitor to sites such as Tikal and Copan can expect to learn a great deal about the historical context of the temples and ceremonial sites they're seeing, including who built them and the events of the time, such as marriages, warfare, etc., as well as current theories about the downfall of the Maya civilization. These days the guides at the Maya sites are well-equipped to interpret the Maya history and the hieroglyphs, Frehsee says.

Similarly, he notes, the ongoing discoveries at the Maya sites are made accessible to visitors relatively quickly. "If you've been to any of these Maya sites, if you go back within a year or two there'll be new discoveries. The archaeologists have done a pretty good job with getting that information on-site or at a site museum."

Travelers who are drawn to Mundo Maya's rich history and archaeological sites need not confine themselves to major destinations such as Tikal and Chichen Itza, Frehsee says. "Even in little El Salvador, which is the smallest nation in Central America, there are 750 known sites. In Belize, [recently] three completely new sites were discovered."

Maya enthusiasts aren't the only clients for whom Mundo Maya promises tremendous rewards, says Frehsee, who first began visiting the region to write about its underwater attractions for scuba divers.

"The archaeology, rain forests, scuba diving and other outdoor activities that you can do in Central America on a short-term vacation exceed what you can do anywhere else in the world.

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