Archive for October, 2009

Sarah Brightman Arrives for Saturday Chichen Itza Concert

October 30th, 2009 by ejalbright

Soprano Sarah Brightman arrived yesterday in Merida, the capital of Yucatan, and then was whisked to the Mayaland Resort next to the ruins of Chichen Itza, where she will perform tomorrow.

Accompanied by a retinue of 25, she was greeted by a delegation of Yucatecans, complete with trova singers. According to reporters, she was so overcome that she hugged the children who were present.

Meanwhile, the war of words between the Chichen Itza vendors and the state of Yucatan continues. Every day several hundred invade the Chichen Itza archaeological zone to sell trinkets to tourists, but according to those who are said to lead the vendors, the state government is keeping them out during the concert. Jorge Esma Bazan, the director of Cultur (the state agency that is overseeing the concert), has claimed that an agreement is in place with the vendors. However, one of the leaders of the vendors told reporters yesterday that no such agreement is in place, and that they will be turning to their deities for help.

“We will ask the Maya gods that some authority, sensible and conscientious, agrees to our petition to expropriate the land upon which stands Chichen, and that it belongs to those individuals who come inside to work there without prohibitions,” said Silvia Cimé Mex, one of the leaders of New Kulkulcan, the union of vendors.

While the monuments at Chichen Itza belong to the Mexican government, the land upon which they rest is privately owned. The vendor union has pressed for the government to take the land via expropriation.

According to Cimé Mex, the vendors have been restricted in the archaeological zone while those preparing the concert have had free reign, including climbing monuments which are banned to the general public. While the Maya are forbidden from blowing conch shell trumpets during their ceremonies held at Chichen Itza, the union leader claimed that much greater damage will result from the decibels produced by the concert’s sound system.

Last week the leaders of the vendors threatened to hold protests against the show and even block roads. However, Cimé Mex made no mention of that during her press conference yesterday. The only action, apparently, will be supplication to the Maya gods for help.

Around 6,000 are expected to attend the performance by Brightman. Tickets are still available for the concert. Ticket prices are $8,000 ($616 U.S.), $6,000 ($462), $3,000 ($231), $2,000 ($154), $1,000 ($77), and $500 ($39).

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Museum Dedicated to Maya to Begin Construction

October 28th, 2009 by ejalbright

Construction on the Museum of Maya Culture, originally planned for Chichen Itza, will begin before the end of the year, Yucatan officials said.

This is part of a comprehensive initiative to improve the enjoyment and education of Maya heritage in Yucatan. At Chichen Itza, the state recently completed renovation of the visitor center. At Uxmal the state improved lighting and landscaping.

At a recent press conference on the proposed new museum, no mention was made of facilities promised to be constructed at Chichen Itza by Yucatan Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco in August. The governor announced that the state would build at Chichen Itza something called a Palacio de la Cultura Maya.

The “Museo de la Cultura Maya” will be constructed next to the convention center in Merida, the capital of Yucatan, said Jorge Esma Bazán, director of Cultur, the agency that oversees the patrimony of the state. The first phase has been budgeted at $70 million Mexican ($5.6 million U.S.)

The museum will be built upon two hectares, and will have six exhibition halls in addition to facilities for curators, administration, health services, food service, and parking for 500 vehicles.

The location of the museum, in the north part of the city will make it part of a cultural corridor that will allow visitors to connect with the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltún and the port of Progreso, as well as access to transportation to Chichen Itza and Uxmal, he said.

This November the state will open a visitors center at Ek Balam, a Maya ruin north of Valladolid, and has begun construction of centers at two popular cenotes in that city. The state next year will begin a slate of work on facilities at Dzibulchaltun.


Both Chichen Itza and Merida to Get Maya Museums

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Chichen Vendors Threaten Protest, Possibly Win Concessions

October 27th, 2009 by ejalbright

Cultur, the Yucatecan state agency that is driving the Sarah Brightman concert this Saturday at Chichen Itza, has reported it has reached an agreement with the hundreds of vendors who invade the archaeological zone each day.

This Saturday the world famous soprano will sing at the base of El Castillo, backed by a 70-piece orchestra. Currently some 6,000 tickets (about 85 percent) have been sold to the event, Cultur reported.

The vendors had threatened to protest the event and block roads to Chichen Itza because they claimed they would be kept out during the concert. According to leaders of the vendors, who have formed an organization called “New Kukulcan,” the Yucatecan government refused to even speak with them and had stopped ongoing conversations about a series of grievances the vendors had brought forth.

However, according to the director of Cultur, Jorge Esma Bazam, those claims were untrue. “We always have been near [the vendors], and yes, we knew of its declarations around a presumed boycott and of some restlessness around the concert, but we spoke already to they about it and they were satisfied,” he said. “They had said that they had anxiety about a possible evacuation of the zone before the concert, but we clarified to them that there is nothing to that and in fact already we are working in the zone to prepare the show.”

There has been no confirmation from New Kukulcan of any agreement. Only last week, leaders of the group, Silvia Cimé Mex and Villevaldo Pech Moo had been complaining to other agencies and reporters of mistreatment. Cimé Mex was in Cancun and claimed that the owner of the archaeological zone, Hans Thies Barbachano, was now charging vendors 30 pesos per person to enter Chichen Itza to sell their wears, and another 20 pesos to bring in a cart or other vehicle. She also wanted 15 percent of the ticket price paid by tourists to get into the zone to be fed back to the 20 communities that surround Chichen Itza, none of which currently benefit, she said.

Pech Moo was also making similar indignations, but also claimed that the gift shop next to the Sacred Cenote was polluting the water. The shop is operated by the property owner, Thies Barbachano.

No news agency apparently contacted Thies Barbachano to rebut or comment on any of these charges.

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Chichen Itza Planetarium Show Premieres in Mexico City

October 26th, 2009 by ejalbright

[Editor’s note: This is an update of an Oct. 9 post which, due to SUE*, was deleted from this blog’s database]

The ancient Maya’s perceptions of the heavens with a focus on Chichen Itza is the subject of a planetarium show that premiered in Mexico City Friday night. “El Universo Maya en México” (The Maya Universe in Mexico), which is titled “Tales of Maya Skies” in English speaking countries, held its world premiere at the Instituto Politecnico Nacional in Mexico City. On Nov. 21, the program opens at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, Calif., where it will run for several weeks. The program is being offered to planetariums around the world for presentation.

The 32-minute film is narrated by the wonderful singer/songwriter Lila Downs. The film uses Chichen Itza to tell of the astronomic accomplishments of the ancient Maya. It uses computer animation based on laser scans taken at the ancient city.

Here’s the official announcement:

“Tales of the Maya Skies”
Immerse yourself in the beauty of Chichén Itzá, Mexico, the “seventh wonder of the modern world.” Listen to the story of the ancient Maya civilization. Experience Tales of the Maya Skies.
With unprecedented realism Tales of the Maya Skies immerses us in Maya science, art and mythology, using full dome digital technology to transport us back into the world of the Maya.
Produced by Chabot Space & Science Center, Tales of the Maya Skies inspires and educates through its description of the Maya’s accurate astronomical achievements and how astronomy connected them to the Universe.


Setting Grammy Award winner and Oscar nominee, Lila Downs, narrates, as Tales of the Maya Skies brings us back to the ancient jungles of Mexico, where the Maya built cities and temples aligned to movements of the Sun, Moon and planets. Over many years they observed and documented astronomical events with great accuracy.
The Maya made sense of an ever-changing world by observing, recording and predicting natural events such as solstices, solar eclipses, weather patterns, and planetary movements. These observations, in combination with a sophisticated mathematical system, allowed them to develop a precise calendar system; their measurements of the length of the solar year were more accurate than measurements the Europeans used as the basis of the Gregorian calendar. The Maya also predicted eclipses, were able to forecast seasonal change and developed the concept of mathematical zero, enabling them to predict events into the future.
Tales of the Maya Skies weaves together this rich combination of science, culture, and legend, immersing viewers in the sounds and sights of an ancient way of life.
Recent deciphering of the Maya hieroglyphics is providing archeologists with new and exciting discoveries. Using three dimensional laser scanning and advanced graphic techniques, the virtual reconstruction of architecture in Tales of the Maya Skies also supports these archeologists in interpreting the ancient sites, and contributes to their conservation.
Funding for the production of Tales of the Maya Skies was provided by the National Science Foundation and the Instituto Politécnico Nacional. It is the first full-dome digital show highlighting a Latin American culture, and Spanish language narration is available.
Tales of the Maya Skies will show in planetariums in the United States, Latin America and around the world.

* SUE=stupid user error.

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Mexican Company Preparing Chichen Itza Audio Tour

October 16th, 2009 by ejalbright

Pretty soon you will be able to visit Chichen Itza on your iPhone.

U-Tour, a multimedia company based in the Mexican state of Chiapas, is preparing a series of digital tours of popular Mexican archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Templo Mayor in Mexico City. The company has already completed a multimedia tour of Palenque, which is awaiting government authorization to begin distributing it at the site. The script was written with the help of the Archeologist Fanny López.

Founded by Rodolfo “Rudy” Laddaga and Alejandro Machorro, the company recently completed a tour of the El Greco exhibition currently underway at Mexico City’s Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts). Built for the iPod Touch, visitors to the museum can visit the museum, find a particular painting on their mobile device, and by selecting it hear an audio description including technical details such as name of the painting and year of creation, as well as contextual information such as where it was painted, what the painter had to say about it, as well as the views of the exhibits curators.

The two men got the idea for the company during a visit to Alcatraz in San Francisco. There, visitors are given a mobile device that plays audio about whatever section the person happens to be in. Such devices and programs were too expensive to produce, they found, but when the iPod revolution came into being, creating such programs became more economical.

In addition to creating tours for museum exhibits and archaeological sites, the company is also working on tours of cities, and has completed one for San Cristobal.

In an e-mail to American Egypt, founder Laddaga announced the Chichen Itza tour would be available early next year. “Last month we signed an agreement with CONACULTA (Mexico’s national council for culture and the arts) to start offering the guides in the main archeological sites, museums and historical places of Mexico,” Laddaga wrote. Some 15 guides will be available in Spanish, English, French and Italian by next summer, he wrote.

Last month Laddaga and Machorro received a United Nations World Summit Award for best e-content inthe culture category, and the pair also recently won Mexico’s Dell/American Express 2009 prize for the most innovative company among small and medium-sized businesses.

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