Archive for June, 2007

Chichen Can Withstand Increase in Tourism If Named New7Wonder–CPTM

June 29th, 2007 by ejalbright

Official government estimates believe that the number of tourists visiting Chichen Itza will increase by more than a million in five years should it be named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World on July 7. According to INAH, the federal agency in charge of managing the archaeological zone, Chichen is already near its capacity and at most can handle an additional 300,000 tourists.

These statistics were cited by the news agency EFE. In the same article, Francisco López Mena, the director of national tourism agency Consejo de Promoción Turística de México (CPTM), said that Mexico can handle the additional volume of visitors, and that forthcoming improvements at Chichen would ensure it could handle the increased traffic. CPTM has spent more than a million pesos to promote Chichen to be one of the new Wonders of the World. The article did not cite a source for who would be making these improvements or when. The Diario de Yucatan recently reported that the main entrance to Chichen Itza was under construction, and that visitors would temporarily enter the park through a gate a few feet north.

You can read the entire article (in Spanish) at Terra.es here.

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Astronomer ‘Proves’ El Castillo Marks the Changing Seasons

June 28th, 2007 by ejalbright

A Mexican scientist has confirmed that El Castillo, the great pyramid of Chichen Itza, has more than one solar trick up its sleeve.

Earlier this week Eddie Salazar Gamboa, who media accounts link with the Instituto Tecnologico de Merida, revealed the results of almost 10 years of research, proving that El Castillo undergoes a light-and-shadow phenomenon during the solstices (June 22 and Dec. 21), just as it does during the equinoxes (March 21 and Sept. 22). During the equinoxes, the sun projects shadows against the pyramid to make it appear as if Kukulcan, the feathered serpent, crawls down the side. During the solstices, the sun illuminates two complete sides of the pyramid and leaves the other two sides completely in shadow.

Although the solstice phenomenon is well known and has been for years, Salazar Gamboa’s research provides strong evidence that it is not coincidental. According to Salazar Gamboa, the pyramid must be oriented at exactly 20 degrees 22 minutes off due north so that the solstice sun will produce the phenomenon.

Salazar Gamboa announced the results of his 10-year study at Chichen Itza. He was joined by Federica Sodi, director of Yucatan region for INAH, and Eduardo Perez de Heredia, INAH director of Chichen Itza.

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Chichen Itza as Rock Video

June 24th, 2007 by ejalbright

Remember hair bands? They were a staple of the music scene of the 1980s. They were tailor-made for the music scene of the day, which consisted of power chords and pretty boys, posing for music videos shown on MTV.

One of the more popular bands, Cinderella, released a single “Gypsy Road” in 1988. It made it to #51 on the US charts. They also shot a video, which was de rigeur, and someone had the bright idea of shooting it in Yucatan at Chichen Itza.

The band broke up in the mid-1990s, but has since reformed. Recently they released a greatest hits package, Rocked, Wired & Bluesed.

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Mexico Renews UNESCO License until End of the World

June 22nd, 2007 by ejalbright

Mexico renewed its pledge to continue to safeguard Worldwide Sites of Patrimony as designated by UNESCO. The agreement now extends to 2012, coincidentally the same year the Maya calendar expires and possibly, the world comes to an end (if you believe in that sort of thing).

Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, Rodolfo Elizondo Torres, and other officials were in Washington, D.C., earlier this week to meet with officials of the UN and two sign the letter of intent to renew Mexico’s pledge to protecting areas of sustainable tourism. Mexico is the first nation to renew its pledge.

Some of the other Worldwide Heritage sites include Teotihuacan, Monte Albán, Palenque, Uxmal, Calakmul and Xochicalco, as well as the cities of Guanajuato, Querétaro, Puebla, Oaxaca, Zacatecas and Mexico City.

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UNESCO Disavows Participation in New7Wonders Campaign

June 21st, 2007 by ejalbright

UNESCO, the United Nations watchdog over so-called World Heritage sites, publicly separated itself from the world-wide campaign to name a new Seven Wonders of the World.

Chichen Itza’s El Castillo is one of 20 sites in the world competing to become one of the new Seven Wonders off the World. The previous Seven Wonders, from a list generated in Greece more than 2,000 years ago, no longer exist, save for the pyramids at Giza, Egypt.

UNESCO–the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization–put a notice on its Web site disavowing any connection with the New7Wonders Internet vote to pick a new Seven Wonders of the World. “UNESCO wishes to reaffirm that there is no link whatsoever between UNESCO’s World Heritage programme, which aims to protect world heritage, and the current campaign concerning ‘The New 7 Wonders of the World,'” UNESCO’s statement begins.

There is a touch of sour grapes in UNESCO’s statement, or better, a snobbish derision. UNESCO explains that its job is to identify and encourage preservation of sites of patrimony in the world. Not so the New7Wonders campaign. “Acknowledging the sentimental or emblematic value of sites and inscribing them on a new list is not enough,” it writes. Enough for what? The New7Wonders campaign has a very clear mandate–to find seven places on earth and put them on a list, nothing more, nothing less. UNESCO, by wasting its breath slighting what is the equivalent of a beauty pagaent for world monuments makes them appear petty and worse, may invite scrutiny that they will not survive.

While not diminishing the good works UNESCO performs, it is far from a objective organization and dispassionate participant in world scientific and cultural affairs. UNESCO is an arm of a very political organization, and as such, is subject to the winds of politics. Its statement, reproduced below, drips with political posturing.

UNESCO fails to acknowledge that the public loves bread and circuses. And whether UNESCO likes it or not, the designation of being named a New Wonder of the World by an Internet vote has a good chance of sticking in the public imagination for centuries, while its own legacy will fade within a few generations.

UNESCO’s complete statement is as follows:

In order to avoid any damaging confusion, UNESCO wishes to reaffirm that there is no link whatsoever between UNESCO’s World Heritage programme, which aims to protect world heritage, and the current campaign concerning “The New 7 Wonders of the World”.

This campaign was launched in 2000 as a private initiative by Bernard Weber, the idea being to encourage citizens around the world to select seven new wonders of the world by popular vote.

Although UNESCO was invited to support this project on several occasions, the Organizaton decided not to collaborate with Mr. Weber.

UNESCO’s objective and mandate is to assist countries in identifying, protecting and preserving World Heritage. Acknowledging the sentimental or emblematic value of sites and inscribing them on a new list is not enough. Scientific criteria must be defined, the quality of candidates evaluated, and legislative and management frameworks set up. The relevant authorities must also demonstrate commitment to these frameworks as well as to permanently monitoring the state of conservation of sites. The task is one of technical conservation and political persuasion. There is also a clear educational role with respect to the sites’ inherent value, the threats they face and what must be done to prevent their loss.

There is no comparison between Mr Weber’s mediatised campaign and the scientific and educational work resulting from the inscription of sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The list of the “7 New Wonders of the World” will be the result of a private undertaking, reflecting only the opinions of those with access to the internet and not the entire world. This initiative cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by this public.

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The Straight Dope on 2012

June 20th, 2007 by ejalbright

In December 2012, the Maya Calendar completes a cycle of more than 5,000 years. As we get closer to that date, there is more interest in exactly what will happen. The end of the world? Or just finish one calendar and crack out a new one?

I’ve been collecting theories. In her blog, Sandra in the Sun, Sandra explains, at least as she understands it, what is going to happen and what she is doing to prepare:

Alan is a white blonde Mexican with dreads, and he’s a ruthless seeker of the truth. He has moved to Palenque in preparation for 2012 and to be on high ground (away from the effects of the tidal waves). Palenque and Machupicchu are believed by the Mayans and other indigenous peoples to be the new energy centres of the planet, Palenque surrounded by a triangle of three sacred places: Chichen Itza, Tres Zapotes in Veracruz, and somewhere with a very long name in Guatemala. I’m learning a lot from Alan about sacred geometry, how the temples are antennae that will connect us to the light when the polar shift happens. I’m learning about the solar explosions that are happening every two years instead of every 11, the impending earthquakes and tidal waves, how the magnetic shift will turn the energy of the world upside down. Alan believes that Palenque is the place of the gathering of the 144,000 Ascendent Masters who will help bring us all into the light. What we can do to prepare is educate, and train our bodies as the actual temples that they are to connect to the light when the shift happens. Only the people connected in some form are likely to survive. I’ve learnt that the Tsunami in Asia quickened our heartbeats and we are now vibrating at a much higher rate, and this will only get worse and we will only get more and more confused and the world will go crazy until the shift happens.

Sandra is a little too mellow about the end of the world for my taste. If I knew there were tsunamis and earthquakes coming, I wouldn’t be quite so calm.

Here’s another view of the end of the world, by video blogger Mark McKay. It makes me jumpy just watching it, but I have to admire his production values. He flew all the way to Chichen Itza to get the real story:

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Yucatan by Bicycle

June 19th, 2007 by ejalbright

A Colorado man and his son sought a more intimate view of Yucatan’s archaeological treasures and found it from the seat of a bicycle.

Charles Lynch and his son Max pedaled their way across Yucatan, visiting Ek Balam, Chichen Itza, Uxmal and other sites of the ancient Maya. The biggest challenge was fending off the heat. “Sweat pours freely, forcing us to consume large quantities of liquids, which we find easily in the small towns we pass through,” Lynch described in an article for the Coloradoan. “Throughout our trip we learn to search out refreshing cenotes to ward off the suffocating heat and keep us fresh for the road.”

Bicycling provided a view of Yucatan most tourists never get to see. “During the next few days we find ourselves deep in Mayan culture; small, Yucatecan [Maya] speaking towns situated amongst a string of great ruins,” Lynch writes. “Traveling this way has given us a uniquely dual perspective. On one hand, it can dampen one’s spirits to pass through all the dusty, worn-out looking towns, to see how little the people have, the dirty faces of the children and the trash that lines the roads.

“On the other hand, it’s impossible to ignore the easy and convivial manner of these people and the graceful simplicity with which they live their lives. Mostly everyone we pass along the way has a friendly smile and a kind word, and there is an obvious, almost palpable, absence of stress.”

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New7Wonders: What the Competition Is Up To

June 18th, 2007 by ejalbright

Mexico is working hard to get Chichen Itza’s El Castillo named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. But what is the rest of the world doing? Nineteen other sites are on the ballot (the pyramids at Giza in Egypt, as the sole remaining Wonder of the World from the original list, received an automatic inclusion).

The Sun newspaper in England Saturday did a round up of promotion efforts around the world. In addition to Mexico’s campaign on Coca-Cola cans, Telmex phone cards and in Second Life, other countries are working to get out the vote. According to the Sun:

    * In PERU the government has set up computer terminals in public plazas to encourage countrymen to vote for the Inca city of Machu Picchu.
    * In CHILE President Michelle Bachelet this week called on his people to vote for the volcanic rock statues of Easter Island.
    * In BRAZIL President Luiz Inácio da Silva used his weekly radio address to tell his people how to vote for Rio’s famous statue of Christ The Redeemer.
    * In CHINA the state-run news agency has alerted people to the on-going vote and the opportunity to choose the Great Wall.
    * In INDIA a belated campaign has been launched to vote for the Taj Mahal.
    * In JORDAN the royal family has been urging people to vote for the rock city of Petra.

The Sun, which was telling people to vote for Stonehenge (“Phonehenge,” they called it), said Europe has been lagging even though five of the finalists can be found there: the Acropolis in Athens, Greece; the Colosseum in Rome, Italy; the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France; and the Alhambra in Spain.

Get over to the New7wonders site and vote now. It’s now a horse race.

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Bullet Train to the Past

June 17th, 2007 by ejalbright

Politicians love infrastructure projects. New roads, airports, and now trains, translate into jobs. Yucatan’s governor-elect has not even taken office and already she is pounding the drum of infrastructure. Her mantra over the last few days has been two words: “bullet train.”

Governor-to-be Ivonne Ortega Pacheco reported that she invited consultants from Bombardier, a Canadian company that manufactures things that go fast, such as jets and bullet trains, to look at the feasibility and cost of constructing a high-speed train between Merida and Quintana Roo, with stops in Izamal, Vallodolid and Chichen Itza.

Pardon the editorial comment, but this idea is positively brilliant. The cost to build such a train will be relatively low. Typically what prevents projects of this type is geography (hills, valleys, mountains, etc.–north Yucatan is almost perfectly flat) and property owners (who prevent taking of land). A high-speed train between Merida and Cancun will increase tourism, making it more convenient for visitors of the east coast of Yucatan to travel to Merida. It will also boost the economies of some of the towns along the way.

The idea is reminiscent of Governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto’s proposal to build a automobile highway between Merida and Chichen Itza, a project that was completed a few months before his execution/assassination in 1924. Before the completion of that road, visitors to Chichen had to take the train to Dzitas, and then ride in a torture machine called a volan (a barely padded cart pulled by three mules) over an unimproved path for 17 kilometers.

That highway made possible the Carnegie Institution/Mexican government restoration of Chichen, as well as enabled the beginnings of a tourism industry in the form of Fernando Barbachano Peon’s legendary hotel, the Mayaland, built five years after the road opened.

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“The Most Important Voting Campaign in the World”

June 15th, 2007 by ejalbright

This video overstates the importance of electing Chichen Itza to be one of the New Wonders of the World, concluding that “Today is the most important voting campaign in the modern world.” But it’s got a lot of nifty clips of Chichen Itza plucked from various sources. Enjoy, and don’t forget to vote.

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