When I heard that there were unexcavated ruins near San Mateo, I was under the impression that you had to go out in the forest and walk for awhile, and stumble over them like some classical explorer.
Nothing could be further from the truth. ¨Las Ruinas¨ are literally on the edge of town. Part of the ruins were bulldozed over in the 50s and the elementary school built on top of them.
There are three temples and a ball court. They are totally overgrown, but the temples might have been 50 feet high when they were new. The ball court is perhaps another 50 feet deep from the village.
I was fortunate enough to get a brief tour from Angie, who works at INHAT. Her husband, Alberto, is Mayan, and so she was able to tell me a lot. The ruins are called ¨eighteen¨ by the locals, but no one knows why, or what happened to 1-17. It is also called El Calvario, because at Easter they do a crucifixion scene there. There are crosses all over Las Ruinas, and people go there to pray. Angie and Alberto got married there. There are candles by the crosses where people pray. But I also saw candles in place where there is a recession into the temple but no cross. This implies that at least someone was praying to someone besides Jesus. But it´s hard to get a clear understanding of this, for many reasons.
But ¨las ruinas¨ are also part of everyday life. The kids from the elementary school do their recess in the ancient ball court, and it is also used for band competitions. Guys bring their girlfriends to the ruins and sneak off to make out.
In other words these ruins are still completely a part of people´s life here. To me that is so much more interesting than the grand ruins of Palenque or Chichen Itza, as beautiful as they are.