Traveling With the Oscars

by Matthew Link

The Flick: Apocalypto (2006)

Oscar Nods: Three nominations, for Best Makeup, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing

The Setting: Veracruz, Mexico, standing in for the Yucatán Peninsula

Truth, the Sacrificial Victim: You already know about the drunk driving, the anti-Semitic tirades, the homophobic remarks. Ready for Mel Gibson's next scandal? His much-hyped film Apocalypto, about the end of the Mayan civilization, was shot entirely in a Mayan dialect with Mayan actors, in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, ancient home of…the Totonac Indians. That's right, the Mayans didn't live anywhere near here—they were about 300 miles away, in the Yucatán. So much for historical accuracy. The Totonac still live in Veracruz, and their ancient pyramids and pre-Columbian archaeological sites are as impressive as those of their better-marketed Mayan counterparts. The ruined city of Zempoala dates to the 14th and 15th centuries and was once home to a population of nearly 30,000. The 2,000-year-old El Tajín was the capital of the Totonac state; its temple complex covers half a square mile. You should also visit La Cascada Salto de Eyipantla, the 120-foot waterfall shown in the movie—though we don't recommend reenacting the hero's swan dive over it. Some Mayans are a bit bent out of shape over Apocalypto's portrayal of their ancestors in the film, contending that they weren't only bloodthirsty savages who ripped the still-beating hearts out of their enemies' chests—they also made great strides in medicine, astronomy, and mathematics. Hey, at least Gibson's not blaming them for starting all the wars in the world!

Mexico Tourism Board
Tel: 800 446 3942

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