Yucatecan cuisine is heavily influenced by the ancient Maya who successfully turned local crops like tomatoes, turkey, chiles, corn, and pumpkins into complexly flavored, delicious dishes. One such dish is cochinita pibil. Suckling pig is marinated overnight in citrus juice which tenderizes the meat. It’s then seasoned with deep red achiote paste – another Maya specialty made annatto seeds, cumin, coriander, oregano, cloves, and garlic. The meat is wrapped in banana leaves, cooked in a fire pit, or pib, and eaten with tortillas, pickled onions, and salsa.
Rice, almonds, cinnamon, and sugar sound more like the ingredients for a fine rice pudding than a popular, thirst-quenching beverage - unless you’re in the Yucatán where they’re used to concocting horchata. Long grain white rice is soaked in water then whipped in a blender with cinnamon sticks, sugar, and vanilla. Flavors mix and mingle overnight then the liquid is strained and poured over ice. A variation of the drink is served all over Latin America, but the use of rice in horchata is unique to the Yucatán.
Mayans have been inhabiting the Yucatán Peninsula for more than 3,000 years and one of their most incredible legacies are the ruins at Chichen Itza. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its sheer creative genius, the site was the center of Maya civilization for 1,000 years. The pyramid El Castillo sits in the center and expertly depicts the 365-day calendar year using a series of square terraces on four sides. It’s not only a breathtaking site, it’s an artistic masterpiece. The site also contains a ball court, Temple of Warriors, and Sacred Cenote where human sacrifices were made to appease the Gods. Do. Not. Miss. This.