The Last Supper, La Última Cena
By Byron Augustin
The invitation read, “Come help us celebrate the end of the world, or the beginning of a new one. Join us in an evening of authentic Maya tamales and chocolate, a shamanic cleansing, live traditional Maya music and dance, presentations by well-known Maya experts, wine and special house drinks.”
When one receives such an invitation from Denis Larsen, the iconic owner and host of Casa Hamaca, Travel Advisor’s #1 Bed and Breakfast in Valladolid, one jumps at the chance to attend. As a matter of fact, an eclectic, sold-out crowd of international guests numbering approximately 80 showed up to celebrate. They came from Ohio, Iowa, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Mexico, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Somalia, and other distant locations.
Included in the mix were John and Dorianne Venator, owners of Valladolid’s immensely popular Casa de los Venados. Casa de los Venados is open to the public daily for tours, normally held at 10:00 a.m., where visitors have an opportunity to view the largest, private, museum quality collection, of Mexican folk art in Mexico.
Anouk Pappers and Maarten Schäfer, the creative minds, authors, and photographers who recently published the stunning book, Around the World in 80 Brands.com, paid a return visit to join in the celebration. Their book encompasses stories and photographs with Steve Jobs (Apple Computers), Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), Louis Vuitton (designer), Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, UAE), and Oscar Niemeyer (Brazil’s legendary architect), just to name a few.
However, smack in the middle of this exciting publication, is an article titled, “Yucatan, Mexico, The End of the World As We Know It.” The research for this featured piece was conducted while Anouk and Maarten were guests at Casa Hamaca. They shared that Denis Larsen was responsible for the story because he contacted them and issued an invitation. “If you do a trip Around the World in 80 Brands writing stories, Yucatán is a must,” he said. “The best stories are here; Maya culture is amazing.” Their experiences at Chichén Itzá were enough to lure them back for “The Last Supper”.
As guests arrived, they were greeted with welcome drinks by the attentive, well prepared Casa Hamaca staff. The Maya themed drinks were the most popular including “No Hoch Halach” a concoction of white rum, blue curacao, xtabentun, pineapple juice, and sweet orange juice; the “Xoco loco”, a bit more on the tart side, included vodka, white rum, sweet and sour orange juice, a little grapefruit and a twist of lime; and finally, the “Xoco Tequila” offered a mix of tequila, cranberry juice and lime juice. Guacamole and corn tostados were served as appetizers with the drinks.
Following a little liquid enlightenment and appetizers, guests were served plates of authentic Maya tamales. There were “tamales maculan”, “tamales espelon”, “tamales de cha cha cua”, and “tamales colados”. Three of these selections were cooked in the traditional Maya pib (a covered earth pit) and one was steamed in banana leaves. In order to finish “The Last Supper,” in true Maya style, each person received a bowl of warm Maya chocolate in traditional jicara bowls and a selection of candied papaya, yucca, and camote.
The program that followed the meal will be remembered and shared for a long time. Pam and John Voelkel, authors of the highly successful trilogy, the Jaguar Stone Series, flew in from Vermont to be part of the celebration. Their children’s books, which focus on the Maya culture, are a gift for young readers. Book 1: Middleworld, was selected by Al Roker as one of his Book Club for Kids monthly favorites. Book 2: The End of the World Club, introduces children to what adults have been actively discussing for more than a year. Book 3: The River of No Return, has been described by book critic Rick Riordan as a fact-packed thrilling ride.
Pam and John had the honor of introducing the evening’s special speaker, Dr. Mark Van Stone. Pam created a good chuckle from the audience by pointing out that they had been the first speakers in the Valladolid English Library (VEL) Lecture Series and that tonight she would be introducing the last speaker…if some folks were correct in their prophecies.
Dr. Mark Van Stone held his audience in complete awe as he mesmerized them with a lecture/discussion for the ages. Candid, charming, eloquent, humorous, spontaneous and well prepared, Dr. Van Stone spun an intellectual presentation that stimulated a lengthy discussion after the lecture. He convinced almost everyone that the world was not going to end the following day and he explained how the Maya calendar did not predict the end of the world, it simply suggested the end of an era.
Dr. Van Stone has been immensely popular since the publication of his book, 2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya. The widely accepted dean of Maya anthropology, Dr. Michael Coe, Professor Emeritus at Yale University had this to say regarding Van Stone’s book: “This book should lay to rest wild speculations about the supposed fate of our planet as one Maya great cycle comes to an end and another begins. Van Stone brings to this subject the skills of a true renaissance man not only an authority on the incredibly complex Maya calendar and writing system, but a master calligrapher and accomplished artist as well.
This is true scholarship that goes beyond false prophecies, crystal skulls, galactic alignments, and all of the other mountains of hype about the 2012 phenomenon. Beautifully illustrated and full of insights about this great and ancient civilization, this book will be of deep interest to all lovers of archaeology, both amateur and professional.”
Immediately following the lecture a traditional Maya musical group filled the Casa Hamaca palapa with mystical strains of music that have echoed across the Yucatán for millennia. The musicians were from Xocén and utilized handmade instruments including trumpets made from henequén stalks and gourds, flutes of bamboo, conch shell horns, animal skin and hollow log drums, and seed shakers. These musicians have had the pleasure of providing the opening act for Luciana Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, Sarah Brightman and Elton John at concerts held at Chichén Itzá. While the smoke of incense wafted through the palapa during the musical presentation, a Maya shaman chanted.
The program ended with a robust display of Yucatecan dancers performing “la jarana” while dressed in their traditional, colorful costumes. Guests were invited to join in the dancing. Everyone wanted to know at the close of the evening when Denis Larsen and Casa Hamaca were going to schedule the next extravaganza!
Author’s Note: Ellen G. Ingram of Toledo, Ohio, graciously provided the photo of Dr. Mark Van Stone presenting his lecture.