February 28th, 2010 by ejalbright
Music lovers from around the world are willing to pay thousands of pesos to hear see their favorite artists perform at Chichen Itza and at other preColumbian sites in Mexico.
But to the minds of those charged with protecting these monuments — the staff at the federal Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History or INAH) — these concerts are illegal. The problem is that their cries appear to be falling on deaf ears, or when they are heard, are in the end ignored or subverted by the chain of command.
In 2003, INAH was able to prevent promoters within the state and federal government from allowing Placido Domingo perform at the restored Maya city of Tulum in Quintano Roo, Mexico, just south of Cancun. Five years later the Spanish tenor was tapped to perform at Chichen Itza, and INAH’s Council of Archaeology ruled against the concert. However, the Yucatecan government agency Cultur which was sponsoring the concert reached a compromise with federal authorities by agreeing to take steps to prevent the stage and other facilities from damaging the monuments.
When Sarah Brightman performed at Chichen Itza last fall, there was a half-hearted attempt by some at INAH to stop it. Now Elton John is scheduled to perform April 3, and several INAH staff members are trying a new tact. They have called for a public debate to be held at Chichen Itza on March 11 and 12 to discuss the legality and moral right of holding profit-generating concerts in sites of patrimony.
Early last week three leaders within INAH denounced what they called “excesses of patronage culture” that are the result of overlapping jurisdictions of the ancient sites by two agencies in the federal government and one in state government.
INAH stewards explained that the zones and archaeological monuments in their use are governed by the National Property Act, the Federal Law on Monuments and Archaeological Sites, art or history, which state that the archaeological sites are national assets common use and public domain, attached to the national education system, outside the channels of trade, and that nobody can profit from them or use them for purposes unrelated to its purpose and nature.
Cuauhtemoc Velasco Avila, INAH’s general secretary of researchers and teachers; David Acevedo Lopez, representing the administrative workers, technicians and general laborers, and Yolanda Cano Romero, secretary general of INAH’s primary union, D- II-IA2, announced their opposition to the commercial exploitation at Chichen Itza by Cultur, the Yucatan state agency that has authority of patrimonial sites.
In a press briefing held last week, the three stewards explained that INAH has authority over the zones and archaeological monuments as a result of the National Property Act and that archaeological sites are national assets that belong to the public, and no one can profit from them or use them as such.
As of yesterday, no one from Cultur or other agency has agreed to attend the March 11-12 debate.
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