Mayan Ruins on the Hudson

Mayan Ruins on the Hudson

Red Hook, New Yorkhudson river

Mayan ruins on the Hudson are located in Red Hook, New York. It’s been more than eighty years, and the ruins still stand proudly in the most unusual locality. In the mid-1800s, voyagers and explorers moving up and down the Hudson River would have perceived an atypical sight: Mayan ruins and relics burrowed more than a thousand unconvincing miles to the north.

When settlers set foot on the American land, they got very excited and thrilled. Everything seemed new and untouched to them. The sense of an open book made them use the grounds they arrived at, and thus they turned it into fertile fields and virgin forests. In other words, the ‘new world’ that they discovered was used and inhabited at that time, and it was of no consequence.

This was the prism through which schemers and romantics viewed the new land. But as time passed, they grew some sort of inferiority complex toward the ancient times of Europe. This incident leads the Hudson River School painters to sprinkle ruins into their lands freely. As they did it, they started to imagine the American past as that of their original ancestors and forefathers. This history is not as shocking as it may sound because it has been the rule of the world that the things that you spend the most time with, no matter from where they originate, become your history. The same happened with the settlers, and they started to dig in the rich history of America as that of their own. Presented with spectacular landscapes, these artists still wanted something more.

A sculpture originally from Uxmal in the Yucatan. Image courtesy of Egbert Benson, Historical Society of Red Hook.

 

 

Among those artists and settlers was John C. Cruger. He was the person who owned the island on the Hudson, and as a matter of fact, the island now carries his name. An interesting thing to note here is that he decided to make this a reality. He partnered with yet another renowned personality, Lloyd Stevens. Lloyd Stevens was at that time a travel writer who penned several books about his voyage to eastern Europe, South America, and the Middle East to make John C. Cruger’s dream a reality. In the year 1840, Stephens bought land for $50 that contained the ruined city of Copan. Then, he took casts of the collapsed constructions and sent them north. The casts were put together and assembled in the great city of New York. In addition to this, there were artifacts from Quirigua, Copan, and Palenque placed between them. Cruger would present them to his guests by taking night-time boat rides, moonshine slanting off the incredible antiquities.

But the golden era had to come to an end. After Cruger’s death, his entire family fell on hard times. It was then that in the year 1919, his work-the statues and ruins were sold to the American Museum of Natural History. Today they can be viewed in the Hall of Mexico and Central America as “Red Hook’s ruins.”

 

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