Archive for June, 2008

Secretary of Education, Not INAH, to Decide on Placido Domingo Concert at Chichen Itza

June 25th, 2008 by ejalbright


The federal agency in charge of Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage will not make the final decision as to whether Placido Domingo will sing at Chichen Itza. Instead that will fall to the agency’s boss, the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP).

INAH, the national institute of anthropology and history that manages Chichen Itza, will only make a recommendation, sources inside and outside the federal government have told several media outlets. At some point, the Secretary of Public Education, Josefina Vazquez Mota, will render a final decision, although there is no deadline at this time.

However, don’t expect the SEP to roll over. “If the opinion is not conducive to the realization of the show, the government of Yucatan has the opportunity to submit further proposals to be analyzed,” an anonymous source within the SEP told La Jornada. “But it should already have a plan B in case (none of its proposals are) convincing.”

In 2003, Domingo was refused permission to sing at Tulum, and the concert was moved to a nearby golf course.

Carlos Villaseño, a lawyer who frequently advises federal agencies as to the extent of their authority, agrees that the SEP has the power and responsibility to make the decision. He told El Universal, “We cannot close our eyes to the reality of cultural tourism and continue postponing its serious analysis. This is a good time to have a serious discussion and to obtain proposals of what constitutes viable development through viable use of the cultural patrimony.”

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INAH Workers Protest, Block Ticket Gate to Chichen Itza

June 24th, 2008 by ejalbright

Unionized guards and other employees of INAH, the federal agency that oversees Chichen Itza, halted a four-day protest and hunger strike yesterday over lost wages and uniforms.

The workers set up a protest camp last week in front of the entrance of Chichen Itza, restricting the flow of tourists into the site. By the end of the first day, the picketers also collected more than 1,000 signatures of support from visitors to the site, who have come from all over the world to see the famous ancient city.

Early reports indicated that the target of the protest was the director general of INAH, José María Campos, but the next day news reports said that the group was actually protesting the regional director of INAH, Federica Sodi Miranda.

Officials at INAH offered to open negotiations in Mexico City, but the protesters declined. On Sunday the strike escalated, with the protesters blocking the entrance to the archaeological zone with sticks and stones. Later that day Sodi Miranda and an INAH official from Mexico City arrived by helicopter to meet with the protesters.

On Monday the protest and hunger strike were halted. The union will enter negotiations with INAH later today in Mexico City.

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UPDATE: Placido Domingo Concert at Chichen Itza Still up in Air, But Lots of Juicy Detail Revealed

June 20th, 2008 by ejalbright

Yucatan Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco still does not have permission from INAH to host a concert by Placido Domingo at Chichen Itza on Oct. 4, but as promised, she announced it anyway.

According to an INAH spokesman, the agency, which oversees Mexico’s pre-Columbian sites, has not made a final decision on the concert, as it is awaiting word from its technical departments. Only one, the Council of Archaeology, has reached a decision that has been made public, and it recommended against holding the concert because of there would be no way to adequately protect the site (see full story HERE).

On Wednesday the governor made the announcement in front of the media, along with several hundred politicians and other interested parties. She said her team has met with INAH and the Ministry of Public Education, which oversees it, and has explained the terms, as well as the technical and legal grounds “under which our proposal feasible.” She went on to say, “The state government has full confidence that soon the federal authorities will resolve the request in favor of the approach, which will be communicated in due course.”

The announcement Wednesday also revealed many details about the program, to be called the Concert of the Thousand Columns, and it is no exaggeration to say that the organizers behind it are making it very hard for INAH to say no. The reasons behind the concert and its execution appears to cover every possible political base possible, specifically:

— The main performer, Placido Domingo, has deep ties to Mexico, as it is where he spent much of his youth. He also made his first professional engagement in Yucatan.
— Domingo will be joined by Armando Manzanero, the premier modern composer and songwriter in Mexico, who was born in Merida and is of Maya ancestry.
— The event not only commemorates the one-year anniversary of Chichen Itza being named a Wonder of the World, but also the 20-year anniversary of the site being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered by many to be a much more prestigious honor.
— One of the planks of the administration of Mexican President Felix Calderon is the encouragement of cultural tourism.

Yucatan: Where Placido Domingo Got His Start
The great Spanish tenor made his first appearance on the stage in Merida, Yucatan, in 1957 when he was 16 years old. He performed with his mother, who was a well known performer at the time.

Although born in Madrid, Domingo moved with his family to Mexico when he was 8. His parents ran a theatrical company that performed zarzuela, which is to Spain what Gilbert and Sullivan were to England. Young Placido regularly performed in his parent’s company, particularly when the zarzuela required the role of a boy or young man.

Domingo’s son, Alvaro, was present at Wednesday’s announcement and read a message from his father. The Spanish tenor said it is his “thrill and honor” to sing at Chichen Itza, especially since he has in the past performed at some of the greatest landmarks in the world, such as the Baths of Caraccala in Rome, the Coliseum in Athens, the Forbidden City in Beijing, Luxor in Egypt, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and soon, in Petra, Jordan.

Yucatan has special meaning, according to the younger Domingo, because “my father moved back to Merida in 1957 where he began his acting career as a singer in the company of his mother, Pepita Embil.”

Manzanero Returns Home
Manzanero is probably Mexico’s best known songwriter. His most well known song, at least by United States audiences, is “Somos Novios,” which was translated into “It’s Impossible” and made famous by Perry Como.

His work has been performed by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Elvis Presley, Andrea Bocelli, and Christina Aguilera, among others.

When Manzanero appeared at Wednesday’s announcement, the room exploded into applause. He will accompany Domingo on piano, but it was not revealed what song or songs they will perform.

“When I feel more Maya is when I’m among my people,” Manzanero told the crowd.

The Rest of the Bill
Also slated to perform at the Concert of the Thousand Columns will be the Symphony Orchestra of Yucatan, under the direction of José Luis Chan, which will perform the music of Huapango by José Pablo Moncayo, “The Waltz of the Flowers” by Tchaikovsky, and “Conga del Fuego Nuevo” by the Mexican composer Arturo Márquez.

Domingo will also perform a duet with Puerto Rican soprano Ana Maria Martinez.

Governor Makes Alternative Plans

In an interview after the press conference, Governor Pacheco Ortega told El Universal that the organizers will seek an alternative location if INAH decides against the proposal. “We spoke with the director (of INAH, Alfonso de Maria y Campos) … We have asked them to rethink some things we have proposed, but at the end of the day the final say lies with the institute.”

The concert, at least as far as the govenor is concerned, “represents an economic development and hence social development. While our Mayan architects have left us a great legacy of course we are committed to its preservation and conservation, but we also have the opportunity to take ‘advantage,’ so to speak, to promote the Yucatan.”

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INAH Heading for Showdown With State of Yucatan over Placido Domingo Concert?

June 17th, 2008 by ejalbright

Yucatan Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco says she has heard nothing from INAH, the agency in charge of the ruins of Chichen Itza, and therefore plans to announce Wednesday the October 4 concert in front of the Temple of Warriors starring Placido Domingo.

“On the contrary, we have already had meetings with the secretary of education, Josefina Vazquez Mota (whose office oversees INAH) and we have been moving about the possibility of being able to make (the concert),” the governor said in a statement yesterday.

INAH’s Council of Archaeology last month ruled against the proposal to hold the concert. According to an INAH spokesman, reported El Universal, the agency is awaiting decisions from its other technical departments, the Coordinación Nacional de Arqueología (National Coordinating Office of Archaeology) and the Coordinación Nacional de Asuntos Jurídicos (National Coordinating Office of Legal Affairs). As soon as those decisions have been rendered, they will be announced, the spokesman said.

INAH in 2003 stopped a concert by Placido Domingo at one of national sites of patrimony on the Yucatan peninsula. The Spanish tenor was scheduled to perform at restored Maya city of Tulum, but the concert was moved to a nearby golf course when the INAH ruling came down.

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INAH Council Issues Decision on Placido Domingo at Chichen Itza: ‘NO’

June 15th, 2008 by ejalbright

El Consejo de Arqueología (the Council of Archaeology) for INAH, the federal agency that oversees ancient ruins in Mexico, has told the state of Yucatan that it will not permit a concert at Chichen Itza by Spanish tenor Placido Domingo, according to the news organization El Universal.

The council, however, is only an advisory body which issues recommendations that either can be ratified or ignored. And according to the state of Yucatan, it already has permission from INAH to hold the concert, and will make a formal announcement on Wednesday.

On May 22 Council President Roberto García Moll, an archaeologist, issued a letter denying the request on four grounds (as interpreted from the Spanish by me):

First, none of the options presented for the concert’s logistics would overcome the impact on the site, which is described as “fragile.”

Second, Chichen Itza cannot handle at present the current number of visitors, in addition to pollution and other destructive forces, hence why INAH and other agencies are currently working on a comprehensive management plan.

Third, the plan to hold the concert on what is called the Grand Platform, the massive leveled area that surrounds El Castillo, the Temple of Warriors and the Great Ball Court, would be contrary to basic preservation and protection of the zone.

Finally, the concert will complicate the government’s relationships with the private owners of the land underneath the monuments of Chichen Itza, who could make demands for civil and commercial matters.

The competition between commercial and public interests has long been a battle at Chichen Itza. See the previous post, “All This, Over Pavarotti?” linked below.

Previously:

INAH Mum on Placido Domingo Concert at Chichen Itza

Placido Domingo to Sing At Chichen Itza October 4

Pavarotti Watches Kukulcan Drip Down El Castillo

When Pavarotti Sang to the Maya

All This, Over Pavarotti?

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Beautiful Animation about Mayab Set at Chichen Itza

June 13th, 2008 by ejalbright

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INAH Mum on Placido Domingo Concert at Chichen Itza

June 12th, 2008 by ejalbright

They are not saying yes, and they are apparently sometimes saying no. Officials at INAH, which manages Mexico’s precolumbian ruins, are ducking the question as to whether they have given permission to the Spanish tenor Placido Domingo to perform at Chichen Itza on Oct. 4.

However, the Patronato de las Unidades de Servicios Culturales y Turísticos (Cultur), the state of Yucatan’s arts agency, confirms they have the permission to proceed and the official announcement will be made on June 18.

Benito Taibo, official spokesman for INAH, says he has no comment about the event, which, contrary to an earlier post at this site, will be called “Plácido Domingo in Chichen Itza: El Concierto de las Mil Columnas” (“Placido Domingo in Chichen Itza: The Concert of the Thousand Columns“).

Cultur’s spokesman in Mexico City, Erick Canales, said his agency would never announce an event of this magnitude without having the approval of the INAH. He told El Univerrsal, “We are still planning how many people will come, what will be the distribution in the archaeological zone, the price of tickets, etc., but all these details will be announced on June 18 in Merida, Yucatan, during a pre-event headed by the governor of the state, Ivonne Ortega, and the secretary of public education, Josefina Vazquez Mota.”

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Mayanists Perform ‘Historic’ Ceremony at Sacred Well of Chichen Itza

June 12th, 2008 by ejalbright


Photo Diario de Yucatan

Bartolomé Pool Nahuat, whose name seems to include Maya, Aztec and Spanish, last week led a group of believers in a “Bendición del Manantial” (“Blessing of Spring”) at the lip of the Sacred Well at Chichen Itza.

Pool Nahuat leads what he calls “the true Maya spirituality,” as opposed, one imagines, to fake Maya spirituality. He is a member of an organization called “Consejo de Ancianos y Sacerdotes Mayas” (“Council of Elders and Maya Priests”), led by president Valerio Canché Yah. Canché Yah, when applying at the INAH offices at Chichen Itza for permission to hold the ceremony, described it as “historic.”

Elizabeth Flores Torruco, the new director of the archaeological zone for INAH, apparently is not much of a believer. According to the Diario de Yucatan, Canché Yah told her that his group promotes the practice of a “deep Mayan spirituality,” but is not one of those New Age whacko types. Their purpose is to rescue the real Maya religion “before the oppression of the Spaniards.”

Flores Torruco simply nodded, the newspaper said, “like someone who has confirmed their suspicions.”

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Placido Domingo to Sing At Chichen Itza October 4

June 11th, 2008 by ejalbright

Placido Domingo, the great Spanish tenor, will perform late this summer at Chichen Itza, El Financiero reports.

It was 11 years ago that Luciano Pavarotti performed at the ancient city. That performance has regularly been criticized by officials at INAH and in the archaeological community as a misuse (and even a sacrilege) of the holy city of the Maya. More than 17,000 people from around the world attended the concert which was held at the foot of the Temple of the Warriors (see video below).

The concert is being sponsored by La Patronato de la Unidades de Servicios Culturales y Turísticos for the state of Yucatan (better known as Cultur, the government’s arm that sponsors cultural events), which plans to announce the event on June 18. The performance, according to El Financiero, takes place a few weeks after the one-year anniversary of Chichen Itza’s naming as a wonder of the world.

The event is being billed as “Voces en Chichén Itzá” (“Voices of Chichen Itza”).

Previously:

Pavarotti Watches Kukulcan Drip Down El Castillo

When Pavarotti Sang to the Maya

All This, Over Pavarotti?

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BBC Host Unhappy When Local Wildlife Invades His Bath at Chichen Itza

June 9th, 2008 by ejalbright

Brian Cox, a BBC television host who explains science to the rest of us, was a little cranky about his accommodations during a recent stay at a hotel near Chichen Itza. Here he is on YouTube, describing his complaint:

Cox hosted the BBC’s “Einstein’s Shadow,” as well as it’s Horizon series. The above video is a behind-the-scenes clip for a new program. You can find another clip HERE in which he saws his awe of the great Maya pyramid was tempered because he could not get Star Wars out of his mind.

Before becoming a dispeptic scientist, Cox was a musician in a pop band, D:Ream, which had a few top-ten hits. One of them, “Things Can Only Get Better,” served as an anthem for the Labour Party, which regained power under Tony Blair in the 1990s.

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