Archive for July, 2007

Visitors to Chichen Itza Triple Following World Wonder Honor

July 31st, 2007 by ejalbright

In the first three weeks since being named one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the numbers of visitors to Chichen Itza has tripled over 2006 and 2005.

According to the Mexican newspaper Excélsior, the archaeological zone is setting attendance records. On Sunday, July 22, the number of visitors topped 14,000, the highest number ever outside of those for the solar equinox in March.

“We are taking into account that in these weeks we have a very active national tourism, but the numbers of visitors in recent weeks has gone off compared with the vacation season last year,” said Ramon Lee Rejón, director of the Cultur Patronage in the archaeological zone.

Although it is too early to say that this trend will continue, the management behind the archaeological zone will be pursuing plans on how to cope with this increased traffic.

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INAH Seeks $100 Million to Purchase Chichen Itza, Other Sites

July 30th, 2007 by ejalbright

The national director of INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) said last week he will seek $100 million Mexican from Congress to purchase important archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza.

Alfonso de Maria y Campos said he will ask the Comisión de Cultura in the Mexican House of Representatives, the Cámara de Diputados, to create a revolving fund of 100 million pesos. In the past, the INAH director said negotiations with private landowners of archaeological sites have been hampered by the traditional process of seeking funding from Congress, only to get a smaller appropriation or get the full appropriation too late.

This fund would be replenished every year, under the director’s proposal. The fund, however, may not be used to purchase Chichen Itza. According to Maria y Campos, INAH is offering the current owners of Chichen Itza, the Barbachano family, other properties in exchange. An outright sale, or expropriation, is not as simple a process as a land swap, he said.

The newspaper Milenio has an excellent interview with Maria y Campos (in Spanish) here.

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INAH Director at Chichen Calls for Preservation

July 27th, 2007 by ejalbright

In a recent number of the Diario de Yucatan, the INAH director at Chichen Itza called upon the combined forces of visitors, media, locals, employees, tourism professionals and archaeologists to work together to preserve the ancient city for future generations. Here is a translation (by me, and probably poorly) of that article which you can read in the original Spanish here.

The common objective must be to conserve Chichén Itzá

Our pride must be felt

By Eduardo J. Pérez de Heredia Puente
Archaeologist, INAH director of the Chichén Itzá archaeological zone

I speak of the archaeological zone of Chichén Itzá, of the repercussions from the increase of visitors, and of the importance to prepare for the protection and conservation of this patrimony of humanity.

After all the recent attention, the fundamental preoccupation expressed by many voices is the need to conserve Chichén Itzá.

Almost all of us agree in principle, but why conserve it? How to conserve it? In what manner? and for what purpose? or for whom? These are important questions that we must answer collectively.

Why conserve things? Because we like them, because they seem valuable to us, because they are unique, because it is our legacy or because in it we see ourselves, among other reasons. Everything is filtered through our own perceptions as determined by our values. When viewed aesthetically, Chichén Itzá is a work of art and, when viewed from an environmental standpoint, it as an ecological park. Like all parks, Chichén is a space vital to our development as human beings, a space of relaxation, of nature, of reflection and relaxation.

In strictly historical sense, Chichén Itzá is a pre-Hispanic city and therefore worthy of archaeological investigation.

In an academic sense, Chichén Itzá is perceived as a bio cultural laboratory, a place of interdisciplinary study. It becomes a space that opens us to the magic of our past, confronts to us with the knowledge of our history, puts us in contact with our roots and contributes to our spiritual growth.

From a point of view of our legacy and also by its beauty and singularity, Chichén Itzá is a cultural center for all Mexicans and, importantly, a symbol of indigenous and national identity.

More problematic it is its value as a commodity. With respect to its value on paper as a generator of income, it is clear that one of the greatest enemies of the site is its perception by some sectors as a source of economic booty. Although it is evident that the site attracts workers and honest businessmen who would not compromise the social and ecological surroundings, it is undeniable that it also can attract speculators without scruples or respect of its patrimony, which makes a constant monitoring on the part of the authorities and by all of society indispensable.

The city of Chichén Itzá at the moment is a tourist destination for more that a million visitors annually. As a magnet that attracts tourists, the site today faces a formidable challenge: manage sustainable development and simultaneously guarantee its conservation for the future generations. We propose to supply an integral answer for the short term, a master plan structured and supported by all the instances of government, state and federal. Participation in this effort is the key to maintaining patrimony in a manner that is sustainable, efficient, worthy and income-producing.

And for whom? Chichén Itzá does not have owners, for it is Patrimony for all Humanity. Like Machu Picchu, Angkor Vat or Ciudad Universitaria, is belongs to all.

Chichén is one of more beautiful archaeological parks in the world. It is also one of the most studied, spread, conserved and ecological. It can and it must be a model of patrimonial management. We need great doses of reason and common sense, to resist extremist positions, to take responsibility for our actions and defend our shared values beyond the interests of any one person or group.

We also need to keep our sense of humor–not humor as in laughter, but in the broader sense of all of our emotions. If there is anything positive from all this promotion, it has been to elevate the pride of society, in all its layers, by our archaeological patrimony.

We must take advantage of this emotional climate to move closer to humor of responsibility and compromise, and direct the anger we are going to need in order to make this site of patrimony a source of joy for all, even at the cost of our privileges, the anger to face those who they want to destroy it or to weaken it, the anger to accept that we can speak just a little bit less and do just a little bit more.

I encourage visitors to contribute by placing garbage in its place, and respecting the signs. So, too, the guides must expand their role as representatives o of the values aggrandize the site and its history; the guards must be more alert, the nearby inhabitants must better organize themselves to obtain greater benefits and have direct participation in the decisions; the tourist authorities and industrialists must promote other wonderful sites of the state; the mass media must look more deeply at Chichén Itzá, and the archaeologists must abandon their intellectual distance and, as someone I know once put it, not confuse scientific rigor with rigor mortis.

The greatest challenge we face is not the lack of resources nor the lack of capacity or preparation, but the transformation of the thinking of all those involved to the dynamics of preservation of the patrimony. Without a doubt, to obtain this transformation the only way is through dialogue. And to participate in this dialogue as a valid interlocutor is necessary to commit itself with a common objective: to preserve Chichén Itzá.

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Indiana Jones 4: Indy Goes to Chichen Itza?

July 26th, 2007 by ejalbright

Steven Spielberg is shooting the new Indiana Jones movie. Sideshow Toys has the license to create action figures and other toys from the film. The company has a booth at Comic-Con, the giant comic book/movie/science fiction convention held every summer in San Diego. Ain’t It Cool News reporter Quint published this picture from the Indiana Jones 4 exhibit:

Indy Jones 4 miniature
Photo by Kraken for Ain’t It Cool News.

This is a simplified version of Chichen Itza’s El Castillo pyramid. My poor eyes can’t read the card at the top of the model. Is it a miniature from the new movie? Probably not, as Producer George Lucas is very, very secretive. But if not, what is it? It’s not from the Indiana Jones movies. Is it from the one of the video games, but if so, why build a model for something that is 100 percent computer generated?

Indiana Jones goes to Chichen Itza … How cool would that be?

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Ownership of Chichen Itza Explained … Finally

July 25th, 2007 by ejalbright

After several weeks of public scrutiny, the press finally managed to pin down the national director of INAH regarding the status of the ownership of Chichen Itza and of the purchase/trade/expropriation of the same.

Several weeks ago, Alfonso Maria y Fields told reporters that ownership of Chichen Itza was “very complicated.” Yesterday, when buttonholed at the opening of an exhibit at the National Museum of History in Mexico City, Maria y Fields explained just how complicated it was.

The ownership of Chichen Itza is divided among six private individuals and three ejidos (areas of community property owned collectively by a village or town), he said. He did not elaborate who these individuals or communities are.

In 2006, the federal government appropriated $14 million Mexican to INAH for the purpose of purchasing land under archaeological sites (a 1972 law transfered ownership of the monuments themselves to the federal government). That money has been spent, but none of it at Chichen Itza (again, Maria y Fields did not elaborate, in this case stating what properties had been purchased).

There were negotiations to purchase Chichen, but INAH could not come to an understanding with the owners, he said. Last September the federal government made a formal offer of more than $8 million for the property of Chichen Itza to the Barbachanos, but received no response.

Over the past year, Maria y Fields said, the federal government has met with several of the owners to see if a deal could be reached. Currently the government has abandoned the prospect of taking the property through expropriation and is trying to work out a land swap with the property owners.

Expropriation is no longer an option because INAH cannot pay more than what the Institute of Administration and Estimates of National Goods says is the appraised value. The Institute reportedly has set the value at not more than $5 million (however this fact came from the newspaper La Jornada, and not Maria y Fields).

Also, according to the Registro Catastral, the official registry of property ownership, there are six private owners of record and three ejidos. Those owners cannot be forced to give up what they do not want to sell, Maria y Fields said.

The objective is to complete the transaction as quickly as possible, and if the current owners would more readily agree to a property exchange than an outright sale, so much the better.

Previous posts on Chichen Itza ownership:
New Governor Claims Decision on Expropriation in Two Weeks
Ownership of Chichen Itza–-Everyone’s Got an Opinion
Barbachanos Seek to Donate Chichen
Chichen Itza Ownership “Muy Complejo,” Says INAH Official

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Mexico Bicentennial Building Inspired, in Part, by El Castillo

July 24th, 2007 by ejalbright

building
By OMA© All rights reserved

The 200th anniversary of the Mexican Independence arrives in three years, and in honor of the event, one of Mexico’s largest developers has commissioned a Torre Bicentenario (Tower Bicentennial} that is inspired, in part, by El Castillo at Chichen Itza.

The tower, which at 70 stories will be the tallest in Latin America, will resembe two inverted crystal pyramids (one of them, El Castillo; the other, unnamed). The design is by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the firm run by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who has an impressive resume of buildings around the world (including the delightful Seattle Central Library).

The building, commissioned by Grupo Danhos, is one of the largest real estate development companies in Mexico, will cost $600 million Mexican, and in addition to almost 200,000 square meters of office space will also contain a convention center, concert hall, restaurants, retail space and a museum.

The 300-meter tall building will be located at the intersection of Reforma and Anillo Periférico, on the northeast corner of Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park, home to the Presidential residence.

To read more about the proposed design, visit the OMA site here.

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El Castillo Pops Up Near Mexico/US Border

July 23rd, 2007 by ejalbright

When El Castillo was named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, there immediately was a burst of tourism in Piedras Negras, some 800 miles away from Chichen Itza.

Piedras Negras is a border town, across the Rio Grande river from Eagle Pass, Texas. Its claim to fame is as the place where, reportedly, the bar food nachos was invented. Every year the city holds a “Nacho Fest,” but apparently that was not enough for a sustainable tourism business. So the city built a replica of El Castillo.

Plazas de Culturas
Plaza Culturas (3) by Flavio Pastor.

This scale version of the great pyramid, slightly less than one-third the size of the actual, is one of several Mexican monuments replicated in the Plazas de la Culturas. And according to the director of the plaza, Fernando Purón, the replica El Castillo has been drawing more visitors since being named a world wonder.

The Plaza was completed in 2005 at a cost of $80 million Mexican. There is also a replica of the Pyramid of the Sun of Teotihuacan.

You can read the rest of the article on Piedras Negras Plazas de las Culturas here.

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Maya Prophecy Revealed, Take Two!

July 20th, 2007 by ejalbright

A couple weeks ago I posted about an animated film that was making the rounds of the Internet, an interpretation of what will happen at Chichen Itza on Dec. 21, 2012, when the Maya calendar runs out.

The creator of that short film, Gonzalo Correa, wrote to thank me for putting up a link to his film. I asked him what prompted him to create it, and he tells me that “some years ago I began to investigate the prophecies of the Maya, which, as you know, is a fascinating culture, but unlike others, there are many mysteries that have not been solved.” Much of the knowledge of the Maya was lost when a Spanish priest, Diego de Landa, ordered the writings of the Maya burned, he says. “Like many people, I have always been attracted to know the future and the prophecies, so I took it upon myself to investigate.”

Correa describes himself as “an entertainer by computer.” A year ago he left a mundane job to start an Internet creative company, Banano, with a friend.

Around the same time he wanted to enter an animation festival in Guadalajara, so he decided to explore the Maya prophecies. “It is my small contribution to that great culture that knew so much,” he says. Unfortunately, he did not have time to do more than a small piece of how he imagined the prophecies to be fulfilled.

“I believe that we are living in difficult times all over in the world, and if the day arises that the prophecies are fulfilled, I would like to contribute something to help that new stage of which they speak,” Correa says.

Here again is Gonzalo Correa’s short film, “Sincronia”:

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New Governor Claims Decision on Expropriation in Two Weeks

July 19th, 2007 by ejalbright

Ivonne Ortega, the governor-elect of Yucatan, said she will know in two weeks how Chichen Itza will become the property of the Mexican people.

The property beneath the monuments at Chichen Itza is owned by members of the Barbachano family. The family purchased the land from Edward H. Thompson in 1944. According to Ortega, who takes office in two weeks, a decision will be made whether to purchase the property, accept it as a donation from the Barbachanos, or expropriate it. The federal government through its lawyer, Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, INAH and the Barbachano family are currently in negotiations, she said.

The governor-to-be’s comments appeared on the Noticieros Televisa Web site. You can read them here.

Meanwhile, outgoing governor Patricio Laviada Patron, told La Jornada that his role in the negotiations is of little importance, that he tried to come to terms with the patriarch of the Barbachano clan, don Fernando Barbachano Gomez Rul, but could not reach an agreement.

La Jornada claims that Barbachano Gomez Rul tried to sell the land and donate it to prevent expropriation (Editor’s note: This is based on my translation of the Spanish, which is questionable. See the original article here). Barbachano also claimed the state government was keeping revenues owed him from entrance fees to the archaeological zone, which have accumulated to $470 million Mexican.

Barbachano Gomez Rul died last year.

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Mexico Seeks to Name Its Own Wonders

July 18th, 2007 by ejalbright

Not one to pass up a good idea, the Council of the Tourist Promotion of Mexico (CPTM) has announced its own campaign to name the “13 Wonders of Mexico.”

At www.maravillasdemexico.com, anyone can pick their favorite Wonders of Mexico, from lists that come from both the hand of man and from nature. This lists include Chichen Itza and other Maya sites such as Palenque and caves of Loltun.

Why 13 and not seven, like the recent campaign that named Chichen Itza on of the new Seven Wonders of the World? The organizers do not say, but 13 is a sacred number in Mesoamerica among indigenous peoples.

Read the El Financiero story here (in Spanish).

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