National Geographic : 2013 Aug
• while in the renewed dark the two chattered excitedly about what they had seen and what it meant. "¡Un abrazo, hermano!" Montero ex- claimed, and the two men surged toward each other in the water and appingly embraced. Aboveground the crew of Maya farmers, in shorts and ip- ops, had to work hard to haul the explorers up again. Around us were rustling corn elds that had been waiting for the rain too long, but team master Luis Un Ken, a smiling man respected by everyone in his nearby village, is by nature an optimist. " ere was a good rain the other day," he said, patting the sweat o his face. " e Chaak moved." For men like Un Ken, the old gods are still very much alive, and Chaak, ruler of cenotes and caves, is among the most important gods of all. For the bene t of living things, he pours from the skies the water he keeps in earthenware jars in caves. Chaak is one and many: Each thunder- clap is a separate Chaak in action, breaking a jar open and letting the rain fall. Each god inhabits a separate layer of reality, along with dozens of alternately complacent and ferocious gods that live in the 13 otherworlds above and the 9 oth- erworlds below. Together, they lled the Maya people's lives with dreams, visions, and night- mares; a complicated calendar of agricultural times and fertility rituals; and a rm sense of the way things must be done. Chaak had moved, Un Ken said, and that meant the planting season would soon arrive. Chaak's absence can cause the Yucatán Maya untold disasters, tragedies properly understood only when one is standing on the hard, lunar surface of their former empire, an endless shelf of karstic rock, or limestone. Rain seeps straight through the karst to groundwater levels, and as a result no river or brook runs through the land. (Cenotes are actually sinkholes that extend to the water table.) From the air one sees a green sea of dense jungle. At ground level the tropi- cal forest is thin---spindly trees whose stubborn roots are adapted to the pockets of soil that dot the karst. Wherever the soil hollows are large enough, Maya will plant corn or a milpa, a wise .