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Izamal

Izamal is a small city or large town in Yucatan, Mexico, 72 km (about 40 miles) East of Merida, Yucatan, at 20.93N 89.02W. Izamal has been continuously occupied for thousands of years. Population estimated at 15,000 people in 2000. It is known in Yucatan as "The Yellow City" (for customarily most of its buildings are painted that color) and "The City of Hills" (though most of the "hills" are probably the remains of ancient temple pyramids).

Izamal was an important site of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It was sacred to the creator diety Itzamna and to the Sun God Kinich Ahau. Izamal was a site of pilgrimage in the region rivaled only by Chichen Itza.

Two huge Pre-Columbian structures are still easily visible at Izamal (and from some distance away in all directions). The first is a great pyramid to the Maya Sun God, Kinch Kak Mo, with a base covering over 2 acres of ground and a volume of some 700,000 cubic meters. Atop this grand base is a pyramid of 10 levels. (A great stucco mask still existed on one side as recently as the 1840s, and a drawing of it was published by John Lloyd Stephens.) The second structure is the the so called "acropolis", known anciently as Popol Chac, a large man made mound probably built up over several centuries and originally supporting city palaces and temples. After the Spanish Conquest of Yucatan in the 16th century a Spanish colonial city was founded atop the existing Maya one, however it was decided that it would take a prohibitively large amount of work to level these two huge structures and so the Spanish contented themselves with placing a small Christian temple atop the great pyramid and building a large Franciscan Monastary atop the acropolis. Completed in 1561, the atrium of the Monastary was second in size only to that at the Vatican. Much of the cut stone from the Pre-Columbian city was reused to build the Spanish churches, monastary, and surrounding buildings.

Izamal was the first chair of for the Bishops of Yucatan before they were moved to Merida. The first Bishop of Yucatan, Diego de Landa[?] lived here.

Little archeological work has been done at Izamal, but it is known that it was already an important city by the start of the Classic era about 200 AD, and over 80 archaeologically important structures have been mapped here.

Izamal remains a place of pilgrimage within Yucatan, now for the veneration of Roman Catholic saints. Several saints statues at Izamal are said to perform miracles. An early colonial era statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception is particularly venerated, and is the city's patron saint.

Pope John Paul II visited Izamal in August of 1993, where he performed a mass for the Native Americans and presented the statue of the Virgin with a silver crown.

The Maya language is still heard at least as much as Spanish in Izamal.

Major Fiestas are held in Izamal on April 3, May 3, August 15, and December 8.



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