Archive for December, 2008

Teens Film at Maya Ruin?

December 11th, 2008 by ejalbright

A group of US kids created a trailer to a fake movie, but it looks as if they spared no expense by shooting in an actual Maya ruin. Where they were or how they did it, I have no idea.

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Coffee Kiosk at Chichen Itza Closed

December 8th, 2008 by ejalbright

Until last month, you could get a decent cup of coffee at Chichen Itza.

Andrea Berenger Gil operated a small coffee kiosk inside the visitor information center at Chichen Itza. Last month, Cultur, the state agency that manages the center, shut down her business. The owner claims that the director of Cultur, Jorge Esma Bazan, illegally cancelled her concession.

“This is another irregularity of Jorge Esma,” she told the Diario de Yucatan newspaper.

Berenger Gil had been operating at Chichen for the past five years. Her last contract, which was for three years, expired at the end of November. She claimed that before it expired, Esma Bazan asked her if she wanted to renew, extend, or cancel the contract, but before she could answer, he sent a representative of Cultur to shut her down. The employee prevented employees from opening the kiosk and covered it with posters advising that the business had been shut down.

“This is illegal and also unfair, because I was never late in paying my rent, do not cause problems and, instead, I collaborate with Cultur,” she said.

Cultur either had no comment or was not asked to comment by the Diario de Yucatan. In the meantime, visitors will have to go without coffee when Chichen Itza opens in the morning.

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Placido Domingo Concert at Chichen Itza Raises $3 Million

December 5th, 2008 by ejalbright

Now that all the tickets have been sold and the expenses tallied, the government of the state of Yucatan released the totals from the Placido Domingo “Concert of a Thousand Columns” held at Chichen Itza two months ago.

The concert generated $24.4 million (Mexican) against expenses of $21.46 million. Profits were $2.96 million ($220,000 US). The accounting was announced yesterday at an event in Merida, where Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco announced the creation of several initiatives at which Chichen Itza is at the center.

The first is the “medalla de oro Chichén Itzá,” or Chichen Itza Gold Medal, a civilian award by the state of Yucatan to individuals who provide “lasting and significant contribution to our civilization, art and culture,” the governor said. The first two recipients, to be given next year, are the aforementioned Spanish tenor Placido Domingo and Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes.

One of the governor’s pet projects, the Gran Museo de la Cultura Maya (Great Museum of the Mayan Culture), destined for Chichen Itza, will open in 2011, she said. The project has yet to break ground.

Finally, the money raised from the Thousand Columns concert will be placed into a “Fondo Chichén Itzá,” (Chichen Itza Fund), which will be used for repair and preservation of the ancient Maya city.

Also speaking yesterday was Jorge Esma Bazán, director of Patronato Cultur, the state agency that oversees cultural related programs in the state. Cultur hosted the Concert of a Thousand Columns, which “opened new avenues for cultural tourism,” Esma Bazan said. He added that it is important the state maintain the momentum it has gained and “avoid political or other interest groups that seek to destroy what we have built.”

The director indicated that his agency is seeking to hold other shows in the archaeological zone in partnership with other nations, such as “China in Chichen Itza,” “Rome in Chichen Itza,” or “Egypt in Chichen Itza.” As for the Thousand Columns concert, a DVD and a CD will be released next year.

Esma Bazán stressed that the central objective of the government of Yucatan is to make sites such as Chichen Itza a reference point in the world for cultural tourism and education, an objective that he felt, in the final account, had been fulfilled.

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Chichen Itza Ticket Prices Increased

December 4th, 2008 by ejalbright

It costs an extra 10 pesos to get into the Chichen Itza archaeological zone.

Visitors to Chichen Itza now have to pay $105 pesos. However, because the value of the peso has fallen compared to the US dollar, tourists from the United States will actually be paying less to get into Chichen from a year ago. At today’s exchange rate, the entrance fee is $7.72 US.

Parking at the site also was increased from 10 pesos to 20.

The price increase comes from Cultur, Yucatan’s state agency in charge of cultural activities. Cultur splits the ticket revenue with INAH, the federal agency that oversees archaeological ruins.

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Citizens Await Accounting of Placido Domingo Concert at Chichen Itza

December 3rd, 2008 by ejalbright

Within days after Placido Domingo performed at Chichen Itza, Mexican citizens were demanding to know exactly how much the concert earned and who earned it.

The Spanish tenor performed a historic concert at the foot of El Castillo on Oct. 4. The event provoked controversy from the moment it was announced, and many wanted to know who was profiting from it. A few weeks after the concert, La Unidad de Acceso a la Información Pública (The Unit for Access to Public Information, the agency within the state of Yucatan that enforces transparency in government) ordered Cultur, the state agency that hosted the concert, to present an accounting of the concert within 60 days.

Antonio Sosa Mendoza, director of the public information agency, told the Diario de Yucatan that it had received several requests from citizens interested in how much money the concert made. Originally Sosa Mendoza agreed to give Cultur four months to produce the figures, but because there was so much public interest, the deadline was moved up two months.

Today marks 60 days after the concert, but Mexico is the land of mañana, so there may not be any information information released today.

A few days before the concert, Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco stated that the costs to produce the concert was nearly six million pesos ($450,000 US).

Argaez Olga Perez, the mayor of Tinum (the town that includes the archeological zone of Chichen Itza) reported that he had been told by Cultur that the profits from the concert were 12 million pesos ($888,000 US), and that his municipality would receive 10 percent. However, Sergio Cuevas González, director of Consejería Jurídica (attorney for the state of Yucatan) said Tinum will receive nothing. According to Cuevas González, Tinum demanded 5 percent of the profits, and there is no legal reason why the state should pay anything, even though the concert occurred within its boundaries.

Tinum apparently demanded the money because it receives 5 percent of ticket receipts from visitors to Chichen Itza. However, the concert is exempt from that, Cuevas González said.

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Late Architect of Sydney Opera House Inspired by Chichen Itza

December 2nd, 2008 by ejalbright

Sydney Opera House (photo courtesy

When the Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who died last week at 90, designed the Sydney Opera House a half century ago, one of his inspirations was Chichen Itza.

At first blush it is hard to see any of the massive, heavy monuments of the Maya in the floating design of the opera house. There is nothing at Chichen Itza comparable to the shell-like vaults of the opera house that splay into the air as if they were trying to catch the wind like a sail. But what many people miss is that the building rests on a large platform, and that feature was Utzon’s nod to the Maya.

Utzon visited Chichen Itza in 1949 and never forgot the architecture. “All the platforms in Mexico were positioned and formed with great sensitivity to the natural surroundings and always with a deep idea behind,” Utzon wrote in his groundbreaking essay, “Plateaus and Platforms.” He continued, “A great strength radiates from them. The feeling under your feet is the same as the firmness you experience when standing on a large rock.”

Maya Changed the Landscape
“By introducing the platform with its level at the same height as the jungle top, these people had suddenly obtained a new dimension of life, worthy of their devotion to their Gods. On these high platforms–many of them as long as 100 metres–they built their temples. They had from here the sky, the clouds and the breeze, and suddenly the jungle roof had been converted into a great open plain. By this architectural trick they had completely changed the landscape and supplied their visual life with a greatness corresponding to the greatness of their Gods.”

Utzon started his opera house plan with a giant platform that would completely cover the location of the opera house, Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbor. Upon it he placed his shell-design of an opera house. Utzon’s design was selected over hundreds of competitors in an international competition in 1957. And work soon began on his vision.

Utzon quit the project in 1966 when a new local government, bent on austerity, came to power. Only the exterior had been completed; the interior was finished without Utzon’s involvement. Queen Elizabeth dedicated the new opera house upon its completion in 1973. Utzon never returned to Sydney to see his masterpiece.

In 1999 the government and Sydney Opera House Trust patched it up with Utzon, who agreed to develop a set of design principles that would apply to any future changes to the building. His firm also took on the design of several additions to the building, including a long extension called The Colonnade. Utzon once again returned to Chichen Itza for his inspiration, and based the design on the Plaza of the Thousand Columns, which lines one side of the Temple of the Warriors, just as the Colonnade runs along one side of the opera house.

The Colonnade.

The Colonnade, which was the first exterior change to the building, opened in 2006, and like the opera house, Queen Elizabeth II was on hand to cut the ribbon. Jørn’s son and architectural partner, Jan, stood in for his father at the ceremony. But even though his father was too old to make the trip to Australia, Jan Utzon said, “he lives and breathes the Opera House, and as its creator he just has to close his eyes to see it.”

Last week Utzon closed his eyes for the last time.

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Chichen Itza Novel Due in March

December 1st, 2008 by ejalbright

Antoinette May–astrologist, magazine writer, and lay historian–found success two years ago with her first novel, Pilate’s Wife: A Novel of the Roman Empire, an imagining of the spouse of the man who sent Christ to be crucified. In The Sacred Well: A Novel she chooses as her subject the journalist Alma Reed, who in 1923 fell in love with Yucatan Governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the man who opened the first road to Chichen Itza.

May has already taken the non-fiction route telling the story in her biography Passionate Pilgrim: The Extraordinary Life of Alma Reed. The “Sacred Well” in the title of her new book refers to the Cenote Sagrado at Chichen Itza, the ancient sinkhole where the Maya sacrificed gold, carved jade and human beings to their gods. shortly after the turn of the last century, American explorer Edward Thompson dredged the well and excavated thousands of artifacts, and shipped them to the Peabody Museum at Harvard. Thompson revealed to Reed the story of the dredging in 1923, and she published the first newspaper article about it in the New York Times.

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Sacred Well:

The Sacred Well Antoinette May. Harper, $14.95 paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-169555-1

May (Pilate’s Wife) tells the story of two American reporters from different eras caught up in Mexican intrigue. In 1923, real-life reporter Alma Reed exposed the theft of Mayan artifacts from the Yucatán, leading to an affair with the governor and the ire of local reactionaries. May’s fictional modern-day reporter, Sage Sanborn, is a travel writer on a Yucatán junket enticed to tell Reed’s story by a mysterious American she meets in a bar. Their explorations and ensuing affair echo Reed’s exploits, but the mirrored-narrative premise doesn’t build to anything substantial, and May’s narrators—Alma and Sage—are pretty vanilla as far as adventuring heroines go.

The Sacred Well will be released in March. If you want to pre-order it from Amazon, click HERE.

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