June 14, 2009 at 5:39 am (Uncategorized)

apocalypto4Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” endured harsh criticism since before its release, but I enjoyed watching this film for the entertainment value, as well as the history it brought to life. Watching the film was not easy due to its goriness, and it is difficult to imagine a society so bloodthirsty. The Mayan culture, as well as many other native tribes of the time, believed in human sacrifice, maybe not to the extent of what was portrayed in “Apocalypto”, which is one of the major criticisms against Gibson and this film, but it was a part of their religious beliefs. Human blood fed the gods appetite and in return the gods appeased the humans. The sun god was one of these important deities for these Native American tribes. If the sun god was pleased, then it would appear and help with the light needed for survival, such as with the growth of crops. This is what was seen when Jaguar Paw and the other villagers are taken into the Mayan city. The sacrificial ceremony is taking place.

Watching “Apocalypto” for a second time and without subtitles was extremely revealing. I was able to focus on details I easily missed during the first viewing because I was busy reading the subtitles. Gibson recreated an amazingly descriptive image of the Mayan culture, and two scenes caught my interest; the first when the old man is narrating a story to the tribe, and second was during the sacrificial ceremony by the Mayans.

apclyptoDuring this first scene, the tribe sits around the fire as a family, listening to the elder with great attentiveness and respect. Even the young children, whom we know are not to be able to sit still for a long time, stay in place showing their respect to the ritual. When the elder ends his tale, music then takes over the group. This leads to an outbreak of dance, which is a large part of how this society expressed themselves. This is not a religious ceremony; it is simply a part of their daily lives. They celebrate their ancestors and the present through dance; it is an expression of their tribe and who they are.

The second scene was during the sacrificial ritual by the Mayans. Here, music and dance also play a large role. Various groups are seen dancing in different areas during the ceremony, and for what looks like different purposes also. One group of men dance at the foot of the pyramid where the heads and bodies of those sacrificed fell onto. They act almost insane because they are so ecstatic when the decapitated heads and headless bodies fall in front of them. Another group of dancers are seen while the prisoners are led to start their climb up the pyramid. It is a group of woman dancers and they resemble an almost evilness as they work together to scare the rattled prisoners even more.


During my first viewing of the movie I did not pay much attention to both of these scenes, and I also did not realize how important dance and music were in the everyday lives of this culture. “Apocalypto” is an overwhelming film. The story, the images, and the emotional struggle the viewer goes through make it hard to see many of the details during the first viewing. I can watch it again and I am confident I will see more information I missed in the previous two viewings. Unfortunately, Gibson’s portrayal of the Mayan culture is not very accurate, but I feel it is a good movie because it showcases some of the Mesoamerican land and the native people. Unfortunately, many people are not familiar with the history of the Mayans or other Pre-Hispanic indigenous people, but at least Gibson’s movie brought some light to this interesting topic. For me, I am glad I am able to recognize what large role music and dance played in other tribes and other areas of Mesoamerica. The Aztecs are one of the more recognized native tribes, but some of my research has delved into the different dances performed by other tribes also. It was also interesting to see the dance ceremonies in another medium, like this movie, instead of written descriptions, drawings, and pictures.



  1. pagewriter said,

    Great graphics. I am especially glad you that put your own opinion of the movie in your blog. I agree with you fully. Gibson’s portray of the Mayan culture is not accurate. There is much controversy regarding this, and I am really glad you stated this in your blog.

  2. mgarcia284 said,

    Wonderful selection of images!

  3. reader13 said,

    I really enjoyed reading about the meaning and interpretation of dancing and singing in regards to the Aztecs. As on onlooker experiencing Aztec dancing for the first time, I wondered if there was any purpose to their movements or where they just jumping around? But after reading your blog I felt like a fool because there was such an importance on the dance for them! I find it interesting and think that it is just fascinating how they applied certain dances to specific social classes. I think it goes to show how intelligent and well-thought out the Aztecs were. It is as though everything they did even dancing, had a greater purpose.

    • fabiolahuerta said,

      I completely understand what you mean. The steps seam so simple that for a person who first sees the dance they probably don’t see much meaning in it. I think it was Dr. Heim who mentioned on our first day of class that these steps were simple because they were meant to integrate everyone. It’s great to see that women were also great performers in the Aztec Empire.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: