Archive for February, 2008

Yucatan, Day One …

February 28th, 2008 by ejalbright

I spent the past week in Orlando on business, and, dead tired, got up at 4 a.m. this morning to fly to Cancun for a week on the Yucatan Peninsula. The previous week had been so taxing, I forgot to call my credit card company to tell them I was going. It usually takes a couple of days so that their systems know I am in country, and not someone who stole the card looking for a free vacation. I also left my Mexican money at home, the leftovers from my last trip that I use to tip and buy food and gas once I arrive. This was a particularly grievous error, because my bank also found out this morning I’m in Mexico, and I worry that my ATM card would not work (or get eaten by an ATM machine).

That meant I had to get cash in the states and go to one of the exchange services to change American money into pesos. The exchange rate was 9.45 pesos for every dollar, absolute highway robbery. But I had no alternative, so I changed almost $200, more than enough to get me to Merida.

The breeze off the ocean was positively bracing, at least for the locals. Everyone was wearing jackets or long shirts. I regularly use National Rental Car. I find them relatively honest, but I have to be vigilant. They test my Spanish, which at first blush seems as if I understand what they are saying, but the truth is I have just rented so many cars here that I know the routine cold. They brought me a Volkswagen subcompact, which I have to admit is a pretty nifty car. The value of the car, with almost 50,000 miles on it, is estimated at 11,000 Mexican pesos. If I wreck it, I buy it, because I only purchase liability insurance.

I hit the road immediately and set out for Merida on the Cuota, the toll road that runs across the Peninsula. Since I arrived so relatively early (11:30 a.m. local time), I decided to stop at Piste, the village next to Chichen Itza, and visit friends. I also had to check on my reservation at the Hacienda for Monday.

Bruce Gordon happened to be at the hacienda, so he invited me to lunch. The setting and the food at the Hacienda Chichen are one of my all-time favorite things. Afterwards lunch, I visited the Uh Tun family, who I got to know on an earlier research trip. Vibiano Uh Tun, the patriarch of the family, was relaxing after working the lunch at the Hacienda Chichen (he and his sons play guitars for tourists). I brought a few presents, including photographs I had taken the last time I was here. Jaime, his son, is going to be married next month. I was deeply sorry that I was going to miss the wedding. His bride, Flora, is positively lovely.

I then drove to Merida where a friend had agreed to put me up. I have a pretty full agenda over the next week. Time for bed.

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How to Draw El Castillo

February 19th, 2008 by ejalbright

A YouTube poster, Brun0Zer0, likes to draw buildings freehand. He uses time-lapse photography to show his art-in-progress. Here’s him drawing Chichen Itza’s El Castillo:

Just for comparison, here’s a video of one of the artisans at Chichen Itza who carves objects for sale in the archaeological zone:

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INAH Exploring Ways to Reduce Crowds at Chichen Itza

February 18th, 2008 by ejalbright

INAH, the federal agency that manages Chichen Itza, is seeking ways to reduce the crush of crowds that come daily to view the ancient city.

Since being named a wonder of the world, the number of visitors has increased 75 percent, said Juan Jose Marta­ Pacheco, secretary of Tourist Promotion of Yucatan in an interview last week.

INAH is seeking to reduce the concentration of visitors to the site to diminish the negative impact to the monuments, Marti Pacheco said. One alternative not being explored is closing or reducing hours of the archaeological zone, he added.

Instead, INAH is exploring opening new areas of the archaeological zone, such as Chichen Viejo (Old Chichen), which has been restored. Another alternative is something being called “Dawn at Chichen Itza.” This would allow a group of up to a thousand visitors visit the park between 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., then leave just as the tour buses from Cancun arrive.

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Visitors to Yucatan Increase 75% As Result of Chichen Itza As New World Wonder

February 14th, 2008 by ejalbright

Tourism in Yucatan’s archaeological zones has increased 75 percent since Chichén Itzá was named one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Juan Jose Martí Pacheco, secretary of Tourist Promotion of Yucatan, said that over the past six months, the number of visitors reached a 1.7 million, and more than a third from other countries. The visitors pumped 200 million pesos in special taxes into government coffers.

In January, growth slowed to 8.5 percent, with some 150,000 tourists contributing 4 million pesos in special tax during that period.

The state is looking to boost archaeological tourism in the southwest part of the state, home to the ancient Maya cities of Uxmal, Cabach, Celestun and the Loltun Cave. “We are going to work very hard to create programs to present (visitors),” Marti Pacheco said.

In addition, Yucatan has other attractions that will drive visitor traffic, such as cenotes, ecological reserves, colonial locations. There is also the opportunity for tours based around Yucatecan cuisine, as well as historical tourism based on the henequen industry, and adventure tourism.

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Tulum Illuminated for Night Strolls; Chichen Itza Next?

February 13th, 2008 by ejalbright

El Castillo, (c) killercorn.

Sometime in the next few weeks, the ancient ruins of Tulum on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, will be illuminated to allow for tours at night.

In September 2006, Governor Patricio Patron and his Tourism Secretary Carolina Cardenas came to New York and, in an interview, announced a similar proposal for Chichen Itza. Last year a firm conducted tests of night lighting at Chichen, although there has not be any noticeable progress since that time.

By lighting the monuments, the governor and tourism secretary said this will encourage visitors to stay overnight in the area of the archaeological zones, which will provide a significant boost to the local economy. Currently, the majority of the traffic visiting Tulum and Chichen Itza come from day trippers who arrive in buses from the resort area of Cancun and environs.

However, a newspaper article on the Tulum illumination stated that the purpose was to reduce the flow of visitors to the site at one time. Tulum gets as many as 8,000 visitors per day.

The lights will illuminate the Castillo, part of the northern wall included la Casa del Cenote, as well as the Temple of the Frescos, the House of Halach Uinic-Gran Señor and the House of the Columns, as well as part off the House of the Chultun. Visitors can tour the site with an audiotour that will be made available that for now will be complementary with admission at night.

INAH, the federal agency that oversees archaeological zones in Mexico, says the lighting will not damage or otherwise negatively affect the monuments. The fittings that hold the lights will not harm the architecture and the environment, are highly resistant to the elements, do not generate heat, are easily remove for hurricanes or heavy rains, and require low power consumption.

Tulum ruins, by CláudiaM.

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Maya Gets First-Ever Indigenous Masters Degree

February 12th, 2008 by ejalbright

chichen mural
Detail of mural depicting battle at Chichen Itza (via Maya Lords).

The first graduate of a Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM, Mexico’s national university system) program aimed at indigenous students wrote his graduate thesis on the subject of Chichén Itzá.

Jose Eduviges Pool tomorrow will become the first indigenous Maya to earn master’s degree under a special scholarship program for Indian students.

Pool, 36, received a Master in Visual Arts from the Academy of San Carlos, National School of Plastic Arts (ENAP).

The title of his thesis was “La Batalla, Mural Prehispánico de Chichén Itzá. Variantes y Variaciones Pictóricas” (“The Battle, a Pre-Columbian Mural of Chichen Itza. Pictorial Variants and Variations”), and it analyzes this mural to reveal various archaeological and cultural aspects of the ancient Maya.

Pool was born in Izamal in the state of Yucatan. Of Mexico’s 103 million inhabitants, there are about 12 million indigenous people.

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Thieves in Merida Employ the ‘Chichen Itza’ Defense

February 11th, 2008 by ejalbright

Four men accused of commiting aggravated burglary in Merida have employed a unique way to defend their innocence: They were only visiting Yucatan to see Chichen Itza.

“I wanted to know the wonder of Chichen Itza, the cathedral and buy guayaberas(a Yucatecan style of shirt),” one of the men told the judge.

The men were arraigned in Yucatan courts last week. They had not been commiting burglary, they said. They had been eating at a restaurant and when presented with a bill for $200 Mexican, they were set upon by police, beaten and taken to jail, they said.

The men are held without bail.

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Boutique Hotels Coming to Chichen Itza?

February 6th, 2008 by ejalbright

At an international tourism fair in Madrid last week, Mexico unveiled its strategy to attract travelers over the next few years.

For Chichen Itza? According to Mexican officials attending the fair, the plan is to encourage construction of small resorts to provide “boutique tourism.” No specific locations or hotel plans were unveiled.

At the fair, Mexico unveiled it’s “Table of Monteczuma,” a survey of Mexican cuisine. Attendees to the fair were treated with samples of foods similar to what Monteczuma feted Hernando Cortez when the conquistador showed up in the Aztec capital five centuries ago.

“Mexico has the largest space in FITUR this year, which shows that promoting tourism is a priority issue for us,” said Mexico’s ambassador to Spain, Jorge Zermeño. The tourism program is a priority for the entire nation, as Mexican officials revealed its plans how it planned to promote tourism in areas usually passed over (read: no beaches). The nation is looking at health tourism, tourism for seniors, historical tourism and, of course, archaeological tourism, officials said.

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Tomb Raider Video Game Returns to Land of the Maya

February 4th, 2008 by ejalbright

LCTR uxmal

The next version of the popular video game “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” will be set, at least in part, in the ancient Maya world.

Tomb Raider: Underworld” is the official name of the game, and will be released at the end of 2008. According to the people who track this sort of thing, the game will be set in 2012, and the heroine of the series, Lara Croft, will explore the Maya underworld.

Supposedly the game is set in the Chiapas region, but as the picture above demonstrates, it appears they used the city of Uxmal in Yucatan as a model for the game’s background.

This is not the first time the popular video game series has dipped into world of the ancient Maya. An earlier game, Tomb Raider: Legends, had Lara visiting Chichen Itza (at least, her rear end visited, as you can see from the picture below taken from the television commercial promoting the game).


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Chichen Fotographia, February 3, 2008

February 3rd, 2008 by ejalbright


A collection of cloud photos from Flickr.

Mexico, Chichen Itza, by unknown.

Chichén Itzá, by Shuck.

Chichen Itza, Yucatan by Cactusdude666.

Chichen Itza, by Capricorn8.

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