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 ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡
Our pride must be felt
By Eduardo J. PÃ©rez de Heredia Puente
Archaeologist, INAH director of the ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡ archaeological zone
I speak of the archaeological zone of ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡, 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 ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡.
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, ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡ is a work of art and, when viewed from an environmental standpoint, it as an ecological park. Like all parks, ChichÃ©n is a space vital to our development as human beings, a space of relaxation, of nature, of reflection and relaxation.
In strictly historical sense, ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡ is a pre-Hispanic city and therefore worthy of archaeological investigation.
In an academic sense, ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡ 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, ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡ 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 ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡ 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? ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡ does not have owners, for it is Patrimony for all Humanity. Like Machu Picchu, Angkor Vat or Ciudad Universitaria, is belongs to all.
ChichÃ©n 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 ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡, 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 ChichÃ©n ItzÃ¡.