Archive for September, 2006

The Pop Singer Scandal

September 29th, 2006 by ejalbright

On July 10, the magazine “TV y Novelas-Mexico” published a photo series of the Mexican pop music star, Thalia, at Chichén Itzá. The images had been taken by the performer’s mother on May 29. Thalia was not the only high profile tourist that spring. Presidents Fox and Bush and Prime Minister Harper met together for the first time next to the steps of El Castillo. Thalia’s visit, though unannounced, generated nearly as much media attention-two months after the fact.

It was where the photos had been taken that stirred all the controversy. The magazine printed images of the singer at the top of El Castillo and sitting astride the Chac Mool at the top of the Temple of Warriors–all locations barred to public access.

The visit and subsequent photographs did not escape the notice of the union that represents the workers at Chichén. The secretary general of the union refrained from public comment, until all eyes were trained on Chichén when the president of Mexico and governor of Yucatán travelled to New York to promote the ancient city to be a new Wonder of the World. The union president used that opportunity to blast the pop star and her sister.

Her sister? Thalia’s older sis is Federica Sodi Miranda, director of the Central Region of INAH and the former director of the archaeological zone at Chichén Itzá. Federica, a rising star in Mexican archaeological circles, denied that her sister and mother received special permission to access the prohibited areas. She also said that her sister did break the law, and should pay fines for profiting off the monuments belonging to the people.

The story appeared in hundreds of Spanish-language publications around the world. It gained new life two days later, when Thalia released her mea culpa. Speaking through her lawyers, she admitted erring by visiting the banned locations, taking the pictures and then offering them for publication. Her lawyers were cooperating with INAH, according to the statement, and she would accept the consquences of whatever decision is negotiated. It now falls to the Mexican people to forgive her transgression.

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Chichen Is Hot News?

September 28th, 2006 by ejalbright

Chichen Itza has been in the news quite a bit recently, but for diametrically opposed (and, I would argue, politically opposed) reasons.

Governor Patricio Patron Laviada and his Secretary of Tourism Carolina Cardenas recently went on a blitz of New York City to promote Chichen Itza to be named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Chichén Itzá is one of 21 finalists for the “New 7 Wonders,” the brainchild of Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber ( This is an international campaign to name a new seven wonders of the world, as all but one of the original Seven Wonders of the World no longer exists.

The governor’s trip to New York was covered by the mainstream Yucatan media, specifically Diario de Yucatan. At the same time, the newspaper of the “loyal opposition,” Por Esto, was publishing an expose that described how former Banamex president Robert Hernandez Ramirez (who the newspaper several years ago accused of being involved in drug smuggling to the US) had purchases several ejidos around Chichen Itza for peanuts and was poised to build resorts and other amenities to tourists. The fear, as revealed in an article today (), is that Chichen will become more privatized than it already is.

But the biggest news, which has been reported in Spanish language press around the world, is the scandal of all scandals. Thalia Sodi, the Mexican pop star married to Mariah Carey’s ex-husband, illegally had pictures taken of herself posing in Chichen Itza at locations currently closed to the public. How did she accomplish this feat? We can be certain that her sister, who until recently was director of Chichen Itza for INAH, had nothing to do with it. More about this tomorrow …

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September 27th, 2006 by ejalbright

Part of my marketing plan for my book is to create a dynamic Web site about Chichen Itza that will include a blog. I figured I’d try to blog here for a while to find a format that will work.

In the meantime, my good friend, don Fernando Barbachano Gomez Rul, continues to provide fodder for Yucatan newspapers. Some appear to be taking on the appearance of obituaries, such as the latest in La Revista. In it, Fernando reviews his life and accomplishments, and talks a little bit about what he has been up to. While he says nothing about his star turn in my forthcoming book, he does mention he is writing a book about the Maya. I am helping him with this project, which we both will tackle later this fall.

You can read the interview with this pioneer of Mexican tourism and Maya mystic here.

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