Chichen Itza – One of the 7 world wonders


Walking on the dirt path that led to the pyramid, a sound of jaguar’s roar echoed from somewhere, children were running away from the tour group as their parents try to stop them, coatis were sniffing around on the grass for food, and sellers at the vendors were shouting in Spanish, trying to get my family’s attention to buy their products.

While walking around, I was wondering where was that jaguar’s roar coming from. I thought it couldn’t be possibility actually be here but still wanted to confirm. (Roar) The sound echoed again. I couldn’t tell it was from my left or right or wherever. Generally, we Deaf people don’t have the ability to tell where the sound is coming from. Is it my right? My left? My eyes wandered around, wondering if there are real jaguars around here; my brother detected the confusion on my face and told me that it was coming from a wood-carved jaguar flute. Ah! I was hoping to see jaguars (I love animals) somewhere although it can be frightening!

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El Castillo, also known as The Temple of Kukulcan

My eyes probably sparkled when I spotted the famous pyramid called El Castillo. Chichen Itza is one of the 7 Wonders of the World – UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was told that the design is thought to relate to the Mayan calendar. There are a total of 365 steps as each four faces of the pyramid possess 91 steps to ascend to the top platform. I was also told that if you clap, the doorway at the top platform of the pyramid would echo back. Well, I can’t hear that but perhaps you would!

Generally, the tour group isn’t Deaf-Friendly because of lack of providing an interpreter.

Therefore, when the guide spoke the history and meanings behind the El Castillo and other architectures, I understood nothing. My brother did his best to interpret for me in American Sign Language (ASL) which I feel thankful that he thought of me. At the time, I didn’t bother asking if they have any visual aids (such as brochure), because the heat and humidity was getting to me and I was running out of water – and I was hungry, haha. So, I didn’t want to the the hassle of walking all the way back to the front. That was one of my mistakes for not bothering asking. Despite the fact that there is no interpreter, I didn’t let it ruin my day. I was still engrossed with this place 🙂 What mattered was that I had the opportunity to see this.

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I was told that the Mayan used to play soccer with a rock, instead of a ball. This game would takes a great amount of time to finish due to bouncing the rock with your hips, attempting to aim it to the hole that is more than 15 feet.

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Back then, we were allowed to walk up there to explore until the government decided to put it off limit.

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There were many vendors, selling from chess made of minerals to a jaguar-carved wood flute that makes jagar’s voice as you blow in it. When they talk to me and received no response  from me, which was because either I didn’t know they were talking to me when I wasn’t look at them or because I didn’t catch what they were saying. Their mouths often mouthed:

“No habla Español? Porque?!” (“You don’t speak Spanish? Why?!”) 

I nodded and told them that I’m Deaf/Sorda and gestured by pointing my ear and waving an index finger “no.” Many of them frown and have hint of pity in their eyes, sympathizing me. “Oh,” they would say. Others would look away, as if they were trying to hide their embarrassment or avoid an awkward moment.  Not that I’m complaining or do I care, I’m accustomed to these reactions. I often get this back home in America. What bothered me when they sometimes said, “You should learn Spanish anyways! Learn more!” which had me foolishly questioned my own cultural identity. Just because I don’t speak/write/read Spanish, does that mean I’m not “Mexican” enough? (I’ll be writing about that post soon!).

Overall, my adventure to one of the greatest wonders in the world was fascinating. The scenery was beautiful and definitely a place that you should visit!

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One Seven Wonders of the World, 6 more to go.

General Tips:

  • On hot humid day, it’s highly recommended to bring enough water, umbrella and hat or sunglasses.
  • Go at earlier time (before 1pm) to avoid large crowd

Deaf Tips:

  • If possible, ask if they can provide an interpreter prior your trip- even though it may be highly unlikely
  • Request if they have brochure to read about the history and their meanings behind Chichen Itza

Which one of the seven world wonders first captivate your eyes?

Feel free to share history about Chichen Itza if you know anything 🙂


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57 thoughts on “Chichen Itza – One of the 7 world wonders

  • Toni | 2 Aussie Travellers

    Is it difficult to find tours that offer an interpreter for you when you travel internationally? I know I can find it a bit frustrating even when I don’t speak enough of the local language to understand the nuances of the location’s history or what I am seeing. I’ve also just realised I quite often cover whether a location is wheelchair accessible in my articles but I’ve rarely considered facilities to assist other requirements, I’ll have to pay more attention.

  • Paula McInerney

    I was so hoping that you would see your jaguar after all. Wow getting hassled about speaking Spanish. I get hassled for not knowing enough Japanese when we rerun annually and in my case they are right, I should know more. Chichen Itza looks amazing. Next year, South America for us.

  • Karla

    Same as Paula, I was also secretly wishing you’d see your jaguar, that would be awesome! But yes quite scary! 🙂 Glad that you were still able to enjoy your visit to Chichen Itza, despite the lack of interpreters. Hope someone acts on that one. Cheers to more adventures and may many others follow suit! Stay inspired! <3

  • Natasha Amar

    Thanks for sharing your experience of Chichen Itza. I’m sure it isn’t easy when tours don’t add value to your experience in the same way as they would for others, but I like how you brush it off and still find your way to enjoy new places.

  • Natalie - From Tourist 2 Local

    I studied in Mexico for a semester and took a class on Mexican history. We learned a lot about the Mayan people and I have really wanted to go to Chichen Itza ever since. It seems like you liked the experience! Were you also able to see a Cenote, and how did you like the beaches? They look so beautiful!

  • Els

    I imagine it mustn’t always be easy to find interpreters for guided tours? It’s great that it doesn’t stop you from going on them! Strange reactions by some of the vendors though…

  • Meg Jerrard

    Ooooh awesome photos! Chichen Itza is on my bucket list – we’re thinking of hitting up Cancun later in the year and organizing a day trip. I’ve heard it’s fairly easy to rent a car and do a self drive to hit a few other Mayan ruins on the way so may look into that.

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your experience regardless of not being able to have an interpreter or brochure. I have a friend who travels deaf and she usually prints a bunch of information out before she hits up a destination because it’s generally hard to find brochures in these kind of places. I figured that was a pretty clever way to go!

  • Carolann - One Modern Couple

    How amazing to be able to see a wonder of the world and one that has had you captivated for so long! I love how you are not only opening people’s eyes to the wonderful travel opportunities in the world, but also how much more people need to learn when it comes to making places accessible and when interacting with others of different cultures and abilities.

  • zof

    That’s a pity that they don’t have sign language interpreters in places like that….but I actually believe that what guide says is never THAT important. Our impressions are, and what we see, and how we feel while exploring the place. What the guide says, you can read afterwards.

  • Jen

    Thank you for raising awareness. I hadn’t considered what it would be like to visit a place like this without being able to hear the tour guide. Looking forward to your next post about not being “Mexican” enough.

  • Doreen Pendgracs

    I am really enjoying reading your blog, as I hadn’t previously thought about how important it is for there to be interpreters at this kind of magnificent venue. I hope your writing will help make a difference for those who follow in your tracks.

  • Vicki Mattingly

    It’s interesting to read about travel from a deaf perspective–things I never thought about as someone who hears. Ballgame with rocks–ouch! But then again, they did play to the death, so I guess that was small stuff.

  • Chris

    We loved Chichen Itza, however we explored independently and not with a group, so I can’t advise of any ways that it may have been arranged better for those with hearing difficulties…

    Still, there were plenty of signs at each of the various sights, although from what we saw in our time there, most of the groups only visited a few of the big ticket items and not the whole site (so you may not have had time to read much of the signage).

    Just one minor correction, the pelota (ball) that the Aztecs used was usually hard rubber, and not a rock 😉

  • katja - globetotting

    Did you visit any other Mayan ruins in the area? I visited Chichen Itza years ago but more recently visited the Tulum ruins and those at Coba, and in many ways I enjoyed them more than Chichen Itza (not least because there were less people!). No matter which site I visit, however, I’m always fascinated by the ball game. Great photos too!

  • Michael Huxley

    Great post! May I ask do you always go with tour groups or – since they aren’t always accommodating of deaf people – do you find that it is often just simpler/easier to grab a guide book and explore sites like this on your own?

  • Laura Canfield

    Well this isn’t a site for sore eyes in the least! I’m so glad you were able to still reap the “wonderful” benefits despite the lack of accommodations to your hearing needs. Hopefully, some tour guide, somewhere, will see this and be the domino effect that starts a change in tours for the disabled!

  • Kimberly Erin @ walkaboot.ca

    your photos are beautiful, this is on my list of things to see before I die I just havent made it to Mexico yet…soon tho!

    To bad about the lack of interpreter, my parents have that issue everytime they visit me in South Am….sometimes there just is no English guide for them and they dont speak spanish and so they tend to get a little frustrated with it

  • Nic from Roaming Renegades

    Glad you still managed to enjoy this place, it’s high on our bucket list but yet sometimes with popularity comes a sometimes disappointment when swarms of people slightly ruin it! It’s good you can just rise above people, many often have had no other interactions with deaf people and really don’t know how to react.

  • Kathy Kenny Ngo

    I am so amazed at how wonderful your blog is. I loved the last photo, its so full of life. I gotta admit that I am not too familiar with the plight of deaf people but I can sympathize at how frustrating it must have been that there were no deaf interpreters. I’m sure you would have enjoyed your tour more.

    Still, the sight must have been something.

  • Gabby | The Globe Wanderers

    Another fantastic post – I love your writing style, and your photos – fantastic! 🙂 Really pleased you enjoyed your trip to this wonder of the world… despite the lack of interpreter – Good on your brother for helping! 🙂 I really really hope more people read your blog and that interpreters become more commonplace. I’d also never thought about how difficult it must be when street vendors shout things at you… your blog really is eye opening. Hope you see your jaguar before too long!

    Gabby

  • Gemma Two Scots Abroad

    Nothing worse than being hungry and ill prepared on a trip where someone else dictates when you drink, eat and pee! It must have been well worth it to see (if not learn about) this Wonder! I think Machu Picchu is the only one we’ve seen, will check out what the 7 Wonders actually are now…

  • Revati

    I’ve seen some documentaries on Chichen Itza, and I’m so unsure of what to believe of all the stories they’ve spun! Maybe you guys should try that though, the next time, before you travel.

  • Jolanta | Casual Travelers

    I would have sworn I already commented on this post! I completely agree with you on the water, and trying to get there early. As far as history goes, I’ve been looking at several brochures, old and new, about this place and seem to be getting conflicting information, so it looks like getting the facts straight would mean digging deeper into the sources. I could not for instance find who exactly were the Itza and when they arrived in the area. I found completely opposite views of that! Anyway, I finally finished my post about this place, and hope you won’t mind me linking to yours as well.