Sam Houston State University's first 2016 summer session began today, and our study abroad group arrived in Cancun, Mexico, to start a 24-day tour of Maya and Aztec sites. I'm teaching Public History and my colleague, Charles Heath, is teaching the History of Mesoamerica. We have 12 students in each class, and my mother, Patty, and son, Brant, are joining us for the adventure.
Today, we spent most of our time traveling. After a midday flight from Houston, we arrived at the Courtyard Marriott (which, although a dozen miles from Cancun's desirable Hotel Zone, is very nice). After finding our room and eating lunch, we talked with students and swam for an hour.
At 7:00 pm, we had our first class. The conference room at the hotel was lovely, and I had no problem setting up the computer and projector for the evening. I began with a 100-foot timeline of the world's 4.6 billion year history, which the teachers in the group seemed to appreciate. Then, as background, we all engaged in a discussion about Jared Diamond's view of the world. The students grasped both the pros and cons of Diamond's environmental determinism and understood the implications that his argument has for historians.
Prezi: The World According to Jared Diamond
After my talk, Dr. Heath presented a fine overview of Mesoamerican history from the pre-classic to the present. He also discussed the characteristics that all Mesoamerican societies share. Heath particularly emphasized the importance of corn, cacao, and quetzal feathers to the Maya.
Tomorrow we begin in earnest with Tulum, Coba, and Valladolid.