My friend John is a passionate archeologist and musician that I met in Colorado in 2008 when I was hitchhiking USA in the Magic Bus. John contacted me years after about this idea he had to go see the site of the first Spanish catholic church build in Mexico in the early 1600s. He hoped to find the ruins of a mayan pyramid that is mentioned in this old book.
I used all my experience from past adventures to try to be smart about what I bring and what I film. The movie was made to go along John’s talented writing, so a first exciting collaboration. Being the cameraman for any (scientific) expedition is what I would like to aim for, bring me with you, I bring all my gear and I will make a movie to share your story to the world. Filming in the dense jungle was sometimes difficult and I wish I had the drone even just to see if we were chopping in the right direction. For the first time, I tried to add some sound effects and it really help building the atmosphere.
- Nikon D750 (Sigma 12-24mm 4.5 + AF-S Nikkor Fisheye 10mm 1.8 + Nikkor 50mm 1.8)
- Gopro 5 + Karma Grip + Monopod
- Premiere Pro CS6
I met John in the heart of Cancun for a couple days so we can prepare our expedition. We met Tevin, a young australian lad, and after looking at John’s maps and notes, we left for the deep jungle. Getting there was more expensive that the flight ticket to Mexico but those fishermen were the only fast way in and out. After a first night in that remote fishermen village, we got dropped at the site of the Church for 4 nights in the jungle. We cut our way through with our machetes in a dense vegetation looking at what must have been a large spanish town with at least 2000 people at its peak. Spending time in that harsh environment disrupt my confort zone and reminded me of the happiness of simple necessities.
I met john in Cancun and we stayed some time in the area in that hostel La Morena. A true local experience with a lot of international people! We met Tevin who we convinced to come with us in our jungle expedition.
The sun is low on the western horizon and warm light filters through the canopy onto the jungle floor illuminating columns of smoke from our campfire. Mosquitos whine in our ears and all around us as they feast on our skin and blood without mercy. We’ve hung our hammocks in the trees at the edge of a vast lagoon in northern Quintana Roo near the ancient courtyard of a 16th century church. It was once the center of an isolated costal community and rumored to have been the first church ever built in Mexico, constructed atop a pre-Columbian foundation from the recycled stones of a Mayan temple. The place marks one of the first points of contact between conquistadors and the indigenous Maya of Yucatan as well as the site of an early battle in the war for the Western Hemisphere.
We spent our first night in a very simple little fishermen village. We talked and gather informations as much as we could talking our broken spanish with the locals.
the Maya leaders sprang a devastating ambush on the spaniards in which 15 men were instantly cut down by a flight of obsidian-tipped arrows.
Here is the location of the church on Google Maps.
In 1517, just two years before Hernan Cortez viciously assaulted the Mexica people at the heart of the Aztec Empire, Francisco Cordoba stumbled onto the hot sands of the Yucatan Peninsula at a place called Cabo Catoche where he was met by large crowds of bold, inquisitive locals. After extending a friendly invitation to follow them through the jungle to a city in the distance, the Maya leaders sprang a devastating ambush on the spaniards in which 15 men were instantly cut down by a flight of obsidian-tipped arrows. In a rare New World victory, this surprise attack turned the would-be conquerers back to their ships immediately where many later died from their wounds including Captain Cordoba. The injured conquistador lived just long enough to sail back to Cuba and flash a few golden trinkets in the eyes of the right people before he died. When word of his discovery reached Pope Leo X in 1518, he quickly established the Holy See of Yucatan and sanctioned the construction of the church.
The jungle was a very tough environment! I don’t think I ever heard that many mosquitos at once. Fortunately, my Tennessee hammock protected me well and only dirt got inside.
Sometime in the late 1640’s residents of this small ecclesiastic village fled under growing threats from pirates and privateers who found a remote sanctuary in the swampy mangrove lagoons of the region. Like them, it was the isolated inaccessibility of this place that attracted me to the hidden church. It remains a beautifully wild place; difficult to access and slowly being swallowed by the jungle. It is abandoned now by all but the bats who live in it’s dark inner chambers and they streak through our camp cutting the golden light of late afternoon like tiny fighter pilots – clearly annoyed by our presence as they weave through our hammocks on their nightly flight into the jungle.
We found a lot of ruins and the church itself covered with vegetation and full of bats. We never found a pyramid thought, we confirmed later that it was probably destroyed to build the church.
Once again I find myself alone in a sacred place and the lingering energy is buzzing in the air as I stroll through the open courtyard under a rising moon. I kneel down and scoop up a handful of rust-colored dirt, letting the sandy soil slip through my fingers as I listen for echoes of lost conversations. I can almost hear faded catholic masses and indigenous incantations bouncing off the old stone walls. They bleed into obscure murmurs at the back of my mind in a place where ghosts and Gods mingle with spirits of slain conquistadors and the souls of sacrificial victims.