The Culture of 5th Avenue Playa del Carmen
TREASURE HUNT DOWN 5TH AVENUE PLAYA DEL CARMEN
As I was walking down 5th Avenue one night I really opened my eyes to the culture of 5th Avenue Playa del Carmen and it is really something special. With all the smells and sounds the street is like a living circus. It’s hard to know where you are because there are so many cultures that are twisted together in this rare harmony of craziness. Here you can find everything from your wedding ring to a little monkey. It’s not just young people that visit this street either; you´ll find families and older couples holding hands as they walk down the street eating ice cream. Don’t be surprised if your ear suddenly catches a beautiful piano tone, or kids dancing and playing in the street. I think that it’s the differences that attract people, the possibility to have it all. This is why 5th Avenue Playa del Carmen is popular for so many travelers young and old. Between over filled restaurants and street singing people you will also find treasures. A treasure can mean many things, and in this case it was a new friend.
When I was walking down the end of 5th street I was starting to feel a little bit tired in the end. I decided to go home, but right before I was about to turn around I saw this small little shop with jewelry and it was painted in many different colors. As I was standing there and looking at the art a nice and friendly voice said: “hello, and welcome.” This was my first meet with Omar. We started to talk and he turned out to be a man with history and a lot of passion for the Maya culture.
Omar was born in Merida but moved to Tulum when he was 10. He had an accident and is now in a wheelchair; after that he moved to Playa del Carmen for better opportunities. A short while after he started making jewelry inspired by the people on the beach. One thing led to another and while Omar was talking I couldn´t help but look at his jewelry as they are really beautiful. I see one specific and ask him what this piece of jewelry is. I can see fire in Omar’s eyes, “that is from the Mayan culture” he says. I got very curios and asked him if he could tell me more about it, and he did.
Omar tells me that a lot of the Maya information got lost when the Spanish people came. But what we know is the Maya Civilization lived in Central America, including South Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras between 2500 BC and 1500 AD.
They were a religious community and held festivals throughout the year to ensure the favor of the gods. They sacrified to the gods and made ritual offerings. Part religious ceremony involved drinking an intoxicant called balche. Balche is believe to have magic powers. The drink was made of water, honey, and chunks of bark and roots from the balche tree.
The Maya had many different gods, and they believed in a cyclical nature of time. The rituals and ceremonies were very closely associated with celestial and terrestrial cycles which they observed and inscribed as separate calendars. The Maya priests had the job of interpreting these cycles and giving a prophetic outlook on the future or past based on the number relations of all their calendars. They also had to determine if the heavens were favorable for performing certain religious ceremonies.
Maya gods had affinities and aspects that caused them to merge with one another in ways that seem unbounded. There is a massive array of supernatural characters in the Maya religious tradition, only some of which recur with regularity. Good and evil traits are not permanent characteristics of Maya gods, nor is only “good” admirable. What is inappropriate during one season might come to pass in another since much of the Maya religious tradition is based on cycles and not permanence. The life-cycle of maize lies at the heart of Maya belief. This philosophy is demonstrated on the belief in the Maya maize god as a central religious figure. The Maya underworld, called Xibalba, which means “place of fear”, is reached through caves and deep tunnels. It was thought to be dominated by the aged Maya gods of death and putrefaction.
Omar continued to tell me about a typical ritual the Maya did was to put the bones of the dead ones into the cenotes. They did it to free the soul. Sometimes they put jewelry and other things with the bones for protection.
One interesting detail about the Maya way to dress is that they capture a maquech, a Mexican Maquech Beetle. They would put nice stones on it and wear it as a jewelry piece. During the Mayan period, women from the Yucatán Peninsula wore Maquech Beetles pinned to their chests, over their hearts to attract and sustain loving relationships.
After all this information about the Maya and the history I asked Omar if he had some pieces of jewelry that was typical for the Maya. He told me that he owns his own art craft store and if I wanted he could show me some pieces related to the Maya, and that he actually had a real living maquech as a pet!
MAR Y TIERRA – THE SHOP
I was overwhelmed by all the beautiful jewelry that was in Omar’s shop. Really good hand work made with passion, and I was really shocked after seeing this maquech in real life. All in all Omar is happy because business is doing good these days.
PLAYA IS GROWING FAST
Right now a lot of people are coming to Playa del Carmen; they say that for every hour a new family is moving here. In one hand it gives more work for the people so they can earn money but on the other hand the beautiful nature around the area is being destroyed. Personally Omar misses the old days, 15 years ago one friend of his saw the black puma, right there, in the end of 5th Avenue Playa del Carmen. Can you imagine that? Playa was a hippie place with a few things and a lot of nature. Fortunately there are more and more people caring about the nature and animals. A new dog shelter is up and running, and more and more people are adopting homeless dogs and cats. Some vegetarian places are starting to show up. Omar tells me that nature is the most precious thing we have and we need to take care of it, treat it well with wisdom, and I couldn’t agree more.
He goes on to tell me about these special places; places in the jungle you can feel magnetic power as it reloads your soul like a battery. A lot of people go there and have different kinds of ceremonies for cleaning and old rituals. I find these things very interesting and start to ask more questions but it had been a long day for both of us and we decide to end our long and good conversations for now. I felt happy and more knowledgeable about the Maya thanks to my new friend Omar. He really taught me a lot of new things and I really hope that everybody out there finds a person like Omar.
Just take your time, enjoy and go treasure hunt!
Guest Author: Madelen Lindgren
Hi madelen ,
I’m going to playa del Carmen next month .
Will be my 5th visit to the area .(I’m from London )
Can you please tell me the name and vicinity of Omar’s shop .
I will treat my lady to a piece of Omar’s work .