The House of the Ambassadors

Edzná is an archeological site located in near the Mexican-Guatemalan border. This region of southern Mexico is in the state of Chiapas at the base of the Yucatan peninsula. Though it is associated with Yucatec Mayan people, the site lies in the Guatemalan region which perforates modern political borders. Like other sites constructed in the Petén style, Edzná was built by descendants of those Yucatec Mayan groups who constructed the archeological sites at Chichen Itza and Itzmal. Yucatec Maya are a group indigenous to Mesoamerica who occupied the Yucatan peninsula prior to Spanish contact. They are differentiated from other Mayan groups by their language and geographic occupation. The height of Edzná was during the late classic period of Mayan civilization which was approximately 500 C.E. until 900 c.e. The buildings were constructed within the early classic and the post classic periods. The site’s construction reflects the Petén Style, which is common along the entire Guatemalan region. It is simple in design compared to other Mayan styles of construction such as that of the Puuk region. The structure of the House of Ambassadors is a clear example of the simplicity of this style. Like many other Mayan constructions, the structure sits atop a raised platform. The buildings are rectangular in shape with partially reconstructed columns. There is no embellishment or decorative element of which to speak.

Edzná is an important archeological site because of its prominence within the Calakmul polity. However, the House of the Ambassadors, or Platform of the Ambassadors holds a more modern historical significance. In the 1980s, there was an influx of Guatemalan refugees in southern Mexico who fled political strife in their home nation. To address this issue, the United Nations and other international organizations provided funds to give these refugees work. They were hired to help restore and maintain this structure. This is of cultural value because prior to geopolitical borders, the Guatemalan and southern Yucatec people shared a common culture and were both descendants of the people who built the original structures at Edzná. This project allowed displaced people to restore their own history despite being far from home.

Beginning February 4th 2008, the Spanish Federal Court held genocide proceedings in which witnesses, survivors, and reporters describe the events which forced 150,00 indigenous people to flee to Mexico beginning in 1980. The operation was called “Operation Sophia” and targeted rural Mayan populations. The Guatemalan army marched through the mountainous countryside which was peppered with indigenous communities and used scorched earth methods to destroy and repress Indian life and culture. Among the atrocities committed were torture, kidnapping, bombing and murder. Those who did not wish to live in military controlled areas were forced to live in hiding in the jungle or leave altogether. It was thought that indigenous culture was synonymous to political dissidence in Guatemala so those who embraced it were killed. Young children were murdered so as to stop the perpetuation of Mayan culture in Guatemala. Analyst Kate Doyle summarized these hearings in 2008 over which Judge Santiago Pedraz presided. Eight former military and police officials were charged with war crimes including genocide.

These tragic events have no positive resolution, as indigenous people in Guatemala are presently subjected to harsh living conditions and poverty. However, the Platform of the Ambassadors serves as a cultural victory for the indigenous of the region. While Mayan culture in Guatemala was being violently suppressed, and its people massacred, just across the border, Mayan culture was being restored by those who escaped the tragedies which occurred just kilometers away.