Palenque – Fast-Moving Agua Azul, Palenque Ruins, and a changing world

Palenque boasts some amazing waterfalls called Agua Azul (Blue Water) which you all know by now we are suckers for, so of course this was high on our list. We took a tour out to these waterfalls, as well as the Misol Ha waterfalls. The distance to reach these waterfalls from Palenque made colectivos a stretch, and when coupled with entry fees that are required at each park, we were glad we took the tour.

Misol Ha was a short visit on this tour allowing 30 minutes to explore, which wasn’t enough time to dip in the water. Instead, we walked around and under the waterfalls. There was an option to go deeper in the cave underneath the waterfall for an additional 50 pesos, but we elected to just enjoy the waterfall and then head back to the van. Overall the falls were nice, but now that we have been spoiled by other waterfalls in the area like the ones at El Chiflon, I felt a little underwhelmed.

Our next stop was Agua Azul, which had one of the most powerful waterfalls we have seen in Mexico when it came to pure volume of water pouring out of the falls. The falls were in full force when we arrived, and the promised turquoise waters were a deep brown from all the sediment that was running through the rapid rivers. Despite the visually unappealing color of the water, the roar of the water and the shallow sections of river upstream made for a pleasant visit. We want to come back in the dry season so we can snag some of those aqua blue water photos!

I confess, I have a problem. Often our trip we are in high pressure sales situations with salespeople that immediately try and get you to sign up for a tour, and I can’t help but listen. At the Palenque ruins we had yet another situation where I followed a man over to his information booth to hear a pitch that I knew I had no intention of accepting. After listening to our friend speak for 5 minutes or so we politely declined his tour, but let him down with dignity. As we walked away, he inquired about my climate change tattoo and what it means. He listened intently and then asked, “What side do you think will be true, will we survive?” My immediate reaction was to smile and say, “Of course we will!”

While I ponder our future, it seems weird to then start looking in the past, but as a history enthusiast, it is often in looking at our ancestors we find mirrors of ourselves, and perhaps a chance at putting the phrase “hindsight is twenty twenty” to a functional use. As we continued our journey through Mexico, we had now entered the region of Mexico where most ruins in the area are Mayan, a civilization that I have always had interest in. So much so that my third-grade project was building a miniature clay version of Chichen Itza, one of the seven wonders of the world in the area. Palenque is known for having some of the largest Mayan ruins in the area and seemed to be a perfect introduction to Mayan architecture as we headed north on the Yucatan; I was stoked.

Our first stop was at ruins of Palenque, which were easily reached by colectivo hailed from just in front of the ADO station in downtown Palenque. A short 20-minute drive and we were at the entrance. After entering the first set of pyramids, which have been restored, the size and scope of Palenque was surprising. The impressive landscape of ruins set against the jungle was surreal. With a vivid imagination you can recreate the bustle of the city, temples, and surrounding area. The city would have been alive with natives of Palenque, as well as visiting tradesmen. All focused on their own individual lives and fulfilling the task of the day, no different than our current society.

Humans are capable of a lot when we put our minds to a problem. In antiquity, problems were focused around many of the same issues that have plagued us for millennia. How do we provide for our families? How do we make our town, nation, city, or state stronger? Who can we trade with? Really asking a core question, how do we stay safe?

Humanity has feared many things, and the pulsing heart of America right now is fed fear in a constant drip. It is easy to point at climate change as just another political weapon of fear, what could be more frightening than the end of the world? Whenever that doubt creeps in my head, I am comforted by the words of scientists who are tracking the PPM of carbon in the atmosphere, increasing temperature, population levels of flora/fauna, among other things. The science is building every day, and it is clear this is no invented conspiracy theory, and we are now starting to see the effects of climate change creeping in every day.

But how did we get here? In the first world, we have given up control of how we live to unfeeling corporations. Faster, easier, and farther away from the process which produces it, to the point where most have no idea how, or where the very food they eat is coming from. Is it surprising that emissions have not decreased, but in fact have increased? We indeed have something to fear now, and a critical step will be taking control of what we have given. The people in power with money, security, and control will not be the victims of climate change. It will be the poor and the displaced; those that already need help. Voting is important, yes, but so is community engagement. Community gardens, green energy investment, and giving back to create a stronger community are small, but easily overlooked in their importance. Like our ancestors, we must come together to fight our common enemy, our own destructive lifestyle. 

We have entered the 6th mass extinction event in global history. Melting ice caps, increasing wildfires in the peatlands (carbon sinks storing 10 times more carbon than forests), ocean acidification, soil degradation, and plastics filling our ocean; it is time to act. Yesterday modern-day heroes across the globe took action. The youth movement makes me embarrassed for what I accomplished at the age of 15 or 16, unlike Greta Thunberg or Isra Hirsi. I was asleep and believed all that mattered was finding a good job, working to provide stability, and building a comfortable life. I am awake now and many more are awakening each day. Perhaps there is a chance we can turn this Titantic around from the looming iceberg of climate change with bold actions of civil disobedience like this. I know, and agree, everything must change at a fundamental level in all aspects of society from the way we travel, to getting power, what we eat, and how we live if we are to take proper stewardship of our planet. Like our bodies, we are only given one, and we are killing ourselves on our current trajectory.

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