Background: Tomorrow is Another Day
The Mayan people
Mayans were members of an American Indian civilisation who lived in the Yucatan Peninsula in Central America, near Mexico. They had the highest, most advanced civilisation in the so-called New World during their period of greatest power, the ‘Classic period,’ AD 325 – 925.
How good were they?
Pretty impressive. During this period, the Mayans constructed elaborate stone buildings and stepped pyramids without using metal tools. They used hieroglyphic writing and expressed themselves through sculpture and painting. The Mayans were skilled potters weavers and farmers.
What a mistake to make
While the Mayans were intellectual and advanced in the arts, they made some glaringly obvious mistakes, all of which had contributed to the downfall of their civilisation well before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.
Some major boo- boos were:
- They never used animals for transport even though they were available to them.
- Once they had metal they used it for jewellery rather than for tools. Their tools were made out of stone and much less effective.
- They realised the capability of the wheel and used it for toys in yet they never made a cart or a wheelbarrow.
- They built roads but only ever walked down them by foot on days of ceremony.
What about the Sun God?
Mayans worshipped different gods and ancestors and made human sacrifices upon their elaborate temples. The idea of the Sun God was probably introduced from Mexico towards the end of the classic period. It is quite likely that this idea would still have been around in some isolated villages by the 16th century, when ‘Tomorrow is Another Day’ is set. The blood of prisoners was sacrificed to give life to the Sun God, and as a result he was able to complete his daily journey across the sky.
The coming of the Spanish
Mayan civilisation had passed its peak and the great cities had been deserted when the Spanish conquered the area early in the 16th century. This is the period in which ‘Tomorrow is Another Day’ is set. Separate provinces and chiefdoms lived isolated in the countryside and once impressive ceremonial centres were left in ruins. Warfare existed between chiefs and corruption often occurred within these separate settlements. The Spanish with their guns and horses were easily able to overthrow these disorganised, small communities. The Spanish brought with them disease, which harmed the Mayan population, and their culture declined even further.
Mayans still represent a high proportion of the population in the Yucatan area. Separate communities have continued to develop. Different Mayan groups within the area use at least 20 different languages. Spanish is also common and a large amount of the people are Roman Catholic.