Archive for May, 2009

El Paso Gets Chichen Itza Restoration Exhibit

May 31st, 2009 by ejalbright

In the 1920s, Earl and Ann Morris came to Yucatan as part of the Carnegie Institution team that was to rebuild Chichen Itza. Now an exhibit dedicated to that herculean effort has opened at the El Paso (Texas) Museum of Archaeology.

“Temple of the Warriors: Rebuilding a Maya Monument” opened Sunday. This traveling exhibit originated at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, and now can be seen in El Paso until October.

The exhibit presents the restoration of one of Chichen Itza’s largest monuments, the Temple of Warriors, and the adjoining Plaza of 1000 Columns. It was, for its time, one of the largest restorations performed in the Americas. Earl Morris was the engineer behind the reconstruction, and his wife was an artist who assisted with reconstruction and capture of many of the works of art that were discovered.

The address for the museum is:
El Paso Museum of Archaeology
4301 Woodrow Bean Transmountain Road

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Tarzan and Chichen Itza

May 29th, 2009 by ejalbright

Most people are not aware that one of Chichen Itza’s most famous visitors was Tarzan of the Apes. The fictional creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs visited the ancient Maya city not once, but twice.

The first time was in 1941 in Argosy magazine. “The Quest of Tarzan” was published in three parts, and was the last Tarzan story written by Burroughs. In it, Tarzan is shipwrecked on an island in the Pacific where he discovers a replica of Chichen Itza built by city’s former inhabitants who had left the Yucatan many centuries before. The story was reprinted in the 1960s in the book, Tarzan and the Castaways.

Tarzan again visited Chichen Itza in the late 1970s in a television cartoon. In “Tarzan and the Space God,” the Lord of the Jungle finds the people of Chichen Itza, not in the Pacific, but in Africa. In a nod to the works of Erich von Daniken, the Maya have been enslaved by aliens from another planet.

Don’t believe me? Bow before the truth of YouTube:

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Mexico’s President Pledges 200M Pesos to Restore Tourism: ‘Vive Mexico!’

May 26th, 2009 by ejalbright

President Felipe Calderon (center) and various Mexican celebrities go on television to promote Mexico. (photo La Jornada)

Publicity surrounding the H1N2 flu virus has devastated Mexican tourism (even though regions such as the Yucatan have seen only a handful of cases). Yesterday Mexico’s president Felipe Calderón went on national television to pledge 200 million pesos for promotion to bring back the tourists.

For “Mexico to shine again in all its glory,” the federal government must spend millions to counteract “prejudices and misinformation about Mexico and Mexicans,” the president said.

More than 100,000 Mexicans have lost jobs during this crisis. Tourism, he said, affects everyone. It provides sustenance “for the family of the taxi driver in any big or small city; for the receptionist in Mazatlán; for the small businessman with a hotel in Puerto Escondito; for the tourist guide at Chichén Itzá; or for the artisans of Teotihuacan or Michoacán or Oaxaca; or for the family of the meseros, the waitresses, in wonderful places such as Cabos, Cancún or the Mayan Riviera.”

The president announced that the campaign, called “Vive Mexico,” will spend some $18 million U.S. on advertising to attract national and international tourists.

In addition to this promotional campaign, President Calderon said he would support tax breaks to airlines or cruise companies, as well as discounts to tourism companies on charges such as electrical rates.

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Author Publishes Chichen Itza Book for Children

May 21st, 2009 by ejalbright

The Maya civilization is about to disappear and a little girl, Barahonda, has traveled back to the past to solve several puzzles that will help her new friends survive “¿Qué harías vosotros en su lugar?” What would you do in her place?

That’s the premise of a new Spanish-language children’s book, Barahonda y los Mayas (Barahonda and the Maya), by Swiss-born author Paloma Ulloa. Along with illustrator Juan M. Moreno, Ulloa has created a fantasy that contains many play-along puzzles for young readers as they attempt to prevent the Maya from extinction.

The book is set in the present and in ancient Chichen Itza. Moreno’s beautiful illustrations not only include views of the former Maya capitol and of fantastic creatures, but also a map of Yucatan and pictures of wildlife indigenous to the region.

This will be the first in a series of books where Baharhonda encounters the world’s ancient civilizations, according to Ulloa, who published her first children’s book in 1989. Although Barahonda y los Mayas is the first in the series, it is the second Ulloa has written using the character Baharhonda (the first was Barahonda Bilón).

The book is in Spanish, and only available in Europe. It also contains a audio CD of the author reading the story.

See also:

Palloma Ulloa’s blog

Jose Moreno’s blog

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Chichen Itza in Switzerland Reopens

May 19th, 2009 by ejalbright

Photo from

“Mystery Park,” a theme park in Interlaken, Switzerland, that includes a 1/2 scale replica of Chichen Itza’s pyramid, El Castillo, reopened last weekend after shuttering its doors for three years because of financial failures.

At the reopening, Mystery Park’s creator and founder, Erich von Daniken, spoke on the end of the Maya calendar on Dec. 21, 2012.

Mystery Park first opened in 2003 with the promise of explaining the world’s mysteries as detailed by von Daniken in a series of books, the most famous being the multi-million selling Chariots of the Gods published in 1968. In it, von Daniken outlined a theory that the world’s great civilizations had been visited and helped by aliens from outer space.

Inside the faux-Chichen Itza pyramid visitors were once again treated to a film that promotes a theory that space ship crash-landed in Maya Mexico several thousand years ago, and the aliens inside were assisted by the natives living there. In return, the visitor took several teenaged boys with them into space, and returned them 52 years later after having been trained in the advanced technology of the visitors. These were the men who founded the Maya civilization.

In addition to the exhibits around ancient astronauts, Mystery park added other more mainstream attractions, such as go carts and a Segway track. The opening weekend also had a performance by a Swiss rock-and-roll band, Container 6. The park also gave free “Wurst-und-Brot” (“bread and sausages”)

More than 2,000 people, mainly locals, visited the reopened attraction. The owners, brothers Oskar and Armin Schärz, expressed pleasure at the turnout. The CEO, Marcel Meier, said he hopes to attract 90,000 visitors before the park closes again in the fall.

The names of management are familiar to the Swiss investment community, as this was the same team that operated Mystery Park when it failed in 2006. In 2008, the park was sold to a group of investors who planned to convert the park into something called “Two Lake City,” but the financial crisis in October forced them to drop their plans and Mystery Park reverted to its original management team.

The Schärz brothers and Meier have formed a new company, New Inspiration AG, to run Mystery Park.

Von Daniken is apparently do all he can to assist the relaunch. He signed autographs and posed for pictures. His speech on the Maya calendar was well attended. According to the author, when the Maya calendar runs out on Dec. 21, 2012, the extraterrestrials will return to earth. At the end of his speech, von Daniken said he would pray to his “gods” that Mystery Park will have a successful summer and many more summers to come.


Switzerland’s Chichen Itza to Be Demolished

‘Mystery Park’ Reborn as ‘The City’

Mystery Park Shutters Doors

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Return of Tourism Industry from Flu Expected to be Slow

May 8th, 2009 by ejalbright

The archaeological zones of Chichen Itza and Uxmal reopened to a trickle Tuesday after being closed for a week to prevent spread of the H1N1 flu virus.

Tourism professionals fear the months of May and June will be lost as a result of the disease.

The Yucatecan journal Por Esto noted yesterday that “The lack of visitors has hit hard tour guides, restaurant owners, taxi drivers, craft vendors, waiters, cooks, and generally the whole population depends on the economic income of this activity.”

Luis Maldonado Azcorra, general manager of the Mayaland resort next to Chichen Itza, predicted that tourists would not return in any great numbers until July. When Por Esto interviewed him, the hotel was hosting a group of 40, but that most days during flu scare only five rooms have been rented. He predicted that the lost revenue from the flu will eventually reach 5 million pesos.

According to the Diario de Yucatan, another newspaper in the region, losses from the flu across the state of Yucatan have been on the order of 650 million pesos.

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Chichen Itza Reopens Today

May 6th, 2009 by ejalbright

Chichen Itza reopened today after being closed for almost a week as a precaution to prevent the spread of H1N1 flu virus.

INAH, the agency that oversees Mexico’s museums and archaeological zones, announced yesterday that it intended to reopen Chichen Itza to tourists. Other sites have been opened as well, however some attractions, such as the night-time tour of Tulum, are still closed.

Mexico’s school and universities resume classes tomorrow.

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As Expected, Flu Scare Devastates Tourism Economy

May 5th, 2009 by ejalbright

The threat of H1N1 flu has flattened Mexico’s tourism industry, especially in regions dependent upon visitor dollars, such as the communities around Chichen Itza in Yucatan state.

The tragedy is that Yucatan has not found a single confirmed case of “swine flu,” but that has not stopped mandatory shut downs of schools, restaurants, theaters, and archaeological zones such as Chichen Itza.

Hotels, which in May normally have occupancy rates of nearly 60 percent, report that they are now down to 20 percent. One hotel in Valladolid, the city nearest Chichen Itza, says they are down below 15 percent. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the hotels in the region of the archaeological zone are nearly empty. Restaurants and other businesses have closed and furloughed employees.

At Chichen Itza, the 800 men and women who invade each day to sell trinkets to tourists are staying home.

On a personal note, a friend of mine who lives in Merida, the capital of Yucatan state, has launched a personal campaign encouraging visitors to come. He correctly points out to his friends north of the border that if one wants to avoid the H1N1 virus, come to Yucatan.

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Flu Got You Down? Visit Chichen Itza — Virtually

May 3rd, 2009 by ejalbright

Last week INAH, the federal agency that manages Mexico’s archaeological zones, closed all the sites under their charge as a measure to prevent the spread of flu.

In place of actually visiting sites such as Chichen Itza, INAH is directing visitors to experience Mexico’s heritage virtually. The agency has several videos and online exhibits available to anyone with a computer and connection to the Internet. You can find those HERE.

In the meantime, here’s INAH’s video about Chichen Itza, which includes views of sections of the ancient city that tourists are not permitted to wander, such as Chichen Viejo. Enjoy.

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Closure of Chichen Itza Especially Hard on German Tourists

May 2nd, 2009 by ejalbright

Most people come to Yucatan for the sun, sand, and surf of the so-called Maya Riviera. But not the Germans. According to German tour operators, most come to see the remnants of the ancient Maya culture, and the closure of those archaeological zones as a measure to prevent spread of swine flu is nothing short of a disaster.

According to an article in the Merida newspaper Diario de Yucatan, some 60 percent of tourists from Germany come specifically to see the Maya ruins. Last week INAH, the federal agency that oversees archaeological zones, closed them as a precautionary measure to limit the spread of swine flu.

Rudolf Bitorff, German consul in Cancun, told the Diario that INAH’s decision was not well thought out, that at a location such as Chichen Itza there would be little risk of infection. However, as a result of that decision, tour operators that cater to German visitors have been forced to cancel dozens of tours.

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