Central America: Beautiful shark art spans centuries
In sun-drenched tropical lagoons, stingrays nestle in the sand as sharks cruise the reef. From ancient Maya ruins to modern Kuna molas, stunning artwork shows respect for sharks.
Stone carvings (called glyphs) of mythical sharks adorn ancient Maya temples and other ruins. In Mayan mythology, the xoc (pronounced shoke) was a terrible shark-monster that haunted the coasts and even swam into rivers.
The word "shark" likely entered the English language after a British pirate spoke of man-eating demon fish off the Yucatan coast, creatures which had devoured most of his crew after their fleet was attacked by Spanish forces. The local Mayan Indians called these monsters "xoc."
The spine on the tail of a southern stingray can measure up to seven inches long and carries a powerful sting, delivered over its head like a scorpion.
From Mexico to Panama, people who once made their living by fishing for sharks and rays now fish for adventurous travelers instead. Several communities have set aside marine reserves that promote recreation and tourismfrom swimming with stingrays to watching for whale sharks.
If you fish, let sharks and rays off the hook
Wherever you travel, you can help sharks by seeking out local tour operators and fishing guides who avoid catching sharks and rays.