Friday, April 13, 2007

Los Sapos, Honduras

Copán is a quiet little town nestled in the northern part of Honduras. White adobe buildings with red-tile roofs line the cobblestone streets. Men wear white cowboy hats, children splash around in a wide, clear river at the base of the pueblo, and a cool breeze often blows through the Copán valley, a lush, peaceful land filled with archaeological footprints of the ancient Maya civilization.

My favorite part of the pueblo, however, was Los Sapos- nestled on the mountainside over looking the valley, it is a ruin…
of two huge toads.

We had just been to the Copán Ruinas the day before to see beautiful stone sculpture after beautiful stone sculpture: ornately carved mosaics, buildings with thousands of steps and sacrificial Mayan temples.

So you can imagine my delight when the next day we hiked 45 minutes up the valley to see different ruins of two large, ancient, carved-out-of-rock toads standing foot to foot.

Apparently, in Maya tradition the toad is a symbol of fertility. Historically, Mayan women would travel to Los Sapos to give birth, believing in the birthing and fertility powers of the toads. Little stone toads (replicas of Los Sapos) are sold in all the markets in Copán, many which are given as gifts to pregnant women to bless their labor.

I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up with an obstetrician father and a nurse midwife mother, but I was particularly drawn to this toad legend of fertility. To me it’s just beautiful that this ancient site was the birthing place for Mayan women. And that fact that two frogs represent it is just, well, awesome.

Before leaving Copán I bought a tiny stone toad for 10 lempiras to give to my mom for her nurse-midwifery practice. Who knows if the ancient legend is true, but I’d like to think her patients might benefit in some way from the centuries-old, magic, Mayan birthing powers of Los Sapos.


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