Archive for February, 2012

Paul McCartney Watch Continues — Still No Chichen Itza Show

February 23rd, 2012 by ejalbright

Sir Paul McCartney has begun announcing his tour dates for 2012. So far all are in England and northern Europe.

As for Chichen Itza, which Yucatan’s Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco tweeted in December that the show is confirmed, thought the date is not. McCartney will play Chichen Itza in late March or April, according to the governor.

According to the former Beatle’s website, he will play four concerts between March 24-29, in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and the U.K.

Even though his tour seems to be focused in Europe, it doesn’t rule out a one-time show at Chichen Itza. Elton John, for example, flew into Chichen Itza International Airport from the United States on the day of his show and flew out after it was over, only spending a few hours in Mexico. Paul McCartney could make the flight from Europe in a few hours and have a nice nap on the plane on the way back.

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Roundup: Treating Chichen Itza Wastewater; Merida Adds Buses for Equinox

February 18th, 2012 by ejalbright

Chichen Itza and Maya Yucatan has been in the news of late as we move into high tourism season. Among the recent developments:

INAH, the federal agency that oversees Chichen Itza and other patrimonial sites, announced plans to treat wastewater generated by the influx of tourists at several large archaeological sites.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has already installed wastewater treatment systems at five of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico, and will soon do the same at Chichen as well as Monte Alban, Tulum, Palenque and Teotihuacan. Because these sites receive millions of tourists each year, treatment of wastewater is a priority to protect the groundwater without harming the environment and the archaeological heritage.

INAH did not announce a timeline or when it would begin this work. It also did not say how this would affect visitors to these sites during construction.


One of the major bus terminals in Merida, capital of Yucatan state, will offer hourly service to and from Chichen Itza during the spring equinox.

Central de Autobuses de Mérida (CAME), at the corner of Calles 70 and 71, will increase their normal three-times-per-day runs to Chichen Itza to hourly to shuttle tourists out to see the light-and-shadow effect at the ancient city. CAME is expecting heavier than normal crowds because of highly promoted end of the Maya Long Count calendar this year.


Tourism promoters in Yucatan say ticket prices at Chichen Itza and other Maya sites are too high, and ask that the state and federal government allow children and students to enter for free.

The Consejo Empresarial Turístico de Yucatán (Tourism Business Council of Yucatan or Cetur), a not-for-profit association of tourism-industry professionals, said that after two steep price increases in ticket prices over two successive years, Chichen Itza and other sites in Yucatan state have become too expensive. By enabling children and students to enter for free, the cost for families to visit these sites is more reasonable.

There was no public response from the government to this proposal.

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Follow Nat Geo Blogger As He Tours Maya World in Search of 2012

February 16th, 2012 by ejalbright

View Andrew in Mexico in a larger map

To paraphrase the great Mark Twain*, “Everybody talks about the end of the world, but nobody does anything about it.”

The Internet these days is filled with a lot of chatter regarding the end of the Maya Long Count calendar on Dec. 21, 2012; one man has come to Mexico to sort truth from fiction.

Andrew Evans, a blogger on National Geographic’s website, is touring the Maya world and tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, Google Mapping about what he finds.

Evans is chasing the end of the world; that is, his itinerary is loosely based on ancient Maya sites relevant in some way to the end of the Maya Long Count calendar, an ancient clock of more than 5,000 years that ticks off its last second on Dec. 21, 2012. “Now, at a time when the world (and the internet) is so focused on the darker predictions of an ancient civilization, I intend to seek out my own answers to the mysteries of the Maya,” Evans writes in his introductory blog post. “Not only because I am a highly curious person, but because chasing a mystery is probably the greatest reason ever to travel.”

As of this writing, Evans has visited the Maya sites of Palenque, where he viewed the lid to Pakal’s tomb made famous by Erich von Däniken (who suggested the carvings represented an “ancient astronaut” flying a spacecraft); Tortuguero, which has the only Maya carving carrying the date of (the end of the Maya Long Count); and Comalcalco, which recently became notorious for supposedly having another carving with the infamous end date (but, in fact, doesn’t have the date at all).

According to Evans, he is only using National Geographic from 1888 to today as his guide through the Maya world. But based on his reports so far, the Internet and its vast web of 2012 doomsday and New Age consciousness-raising prophecies are mostly what is pulling him along. It makes for enjoyable reading and a fun ride, although if you are looking for the real answers to mysteries surrounding the end of the Maya calendar or even “just the facts, ma’am,” that’s secondary to creating an entertaining travelogue.

I wish Evans would crack open those musty old issues of National Geographic (and maybe he will in future columns), because some of the best and most balanced writing about the ancient Maya world has appeared in that magazine.

Evans is now in Campeche and will visit the ancient Maya cities of Edzna and Calakmul, before pressing on to Yucatan state and touring Uxmal and Chichen Itza. He’ll finish in Quintana Roo, visiting Tulum, Coba, and the Sian Ka’an reserve. He’s snapping photos along the way, and making delightful observations of the daily life of the people who inhabit the Maya region, many of them descendants of the people who built these magnificent cities.

* Regarding the quotation, “Everybody talks about the weather but no one does anything about it,” it is frequently attributed to Mark Twain, but according to a wonderful blog called the Quote Investigator, it probably originated with Twain’s friend, the writer Charles Dudley Warner.

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Mega-Tourism Development at Chichen Itza Nearing Reality?

February 15th, 2012 by ejalbright

Video created by State of Yucatan to promote tourism development around Chichen Itza

Will Chichen Itza become like Cancun — hotels, restaurants, attractions — without the beach?

That’s what developer Juan José Cardeña, owner of 220 hectares (more than 500 acres) near Chichen Itza, revealed yesterday in an article that appeared in the Diario de Yucatan.

According to Cardeña’s representative, Jorge Ongay Lara, investors from Spain and Switzerland have been in discussions to commit more than a billion pesos ($80 million U.S.) to begin construction on a project Cardeña calls, “Paraíso Maya 2012” (“Maya Paradise 2012”).

The project proposes to subdivide the property near Chichen into 33 large lots in 10 low-density hotels, extensions of chains that currently operate resorts and hotels on the Maya Riviera and Campeche. There are also plans for extensive shopping, a bandshell, and a giant saltwater “dolphinarium.”

Talk, of course, is cheap, and until some developer sends out the bulldozers, the extensive plans are only that — plans. As the video at the top of this post demonstrates, the state of Yucatan has plans for extensive development around Chichen Itza and so far is the only private or public developer to actually start building something — the Palacio de la Civilizacion Maya (Palace of the Maya Civilization), a museum dedicated to the ancient, present, and future indigenous culture of Yucatan.

What is not known is if Cardeña’s Paraiso Maya project has anything to do with the plans by the state of Yucatan. Or is Cardeña just another developer hoping to piggyback on those plans and the perceived interest in Chichen Itza, such as this landowner who is still looking for investors to his Chichen Itza project.

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Yucatan Tourism Chief Seeks to Upgrade Chichen Itza Light Show

February 13th, 2012 by ejalbright

The light-and-sound show that plays at Chichen Itza every evening is cheesy. There, I said it.

For a half-hour or so, colored lights play across the pyramid El Castillo and the Temple of Warriors with less sophistication than a Christmas lights display on your average home NOB (north of the border). Apparently the secretary of tourism for the State of Yucatan feels likewise, for he’s requesting $8.5 million Mexican ($660,000 US) to update it.

According to the news service SIPSE, Secretary Juan Martin Pacheco reported he is seeking the money not only for Chichen Itza but to also install a light-and-sound show at Loltun, a spectacular cavern south of Merida near Uxmal once inhabited by the ancient Maya. Chichen Itza, he explained, is the most famous and popular site in Yucatan state, but other sites such as Loltun are just as spectacular but lack in tourism traffic, hence the need for something like a light show.

The upgrades at Chichen and Loltun should be considered part of recently commenced campaign to promote the Maya region in 2012, the year the Maya Long Count calendar ends. By investing in light shows and other enhancements to archaeological sites, “It’s an opportunity to restore the position Yucatan had for many years, of quality of service and care, demonstrated by the newly renovated airport and investment in infrastructure, in training and care for people and good service, in addition to having the safest state in the country, we can guarantee that people keep coming,”he said.

I would suggest that if the state of Yucatan is considering upgrading the light show at Chichen, they should bring it up to the 21st century and hire this company:

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Nobel Prize Astronomer Explains Cosmos at Chichen Itza

February 12th, 2012 by ejalbright

The ancient Maya were great astronomers, so what better place to present a lecture on modern astronomy that at the foot of El Castillo, the great pyramid at Chichen Itza.

George Smoot, the Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist, spoke for almost an hour under the stars at Chichen Itza last month, coming to praise the astronomical accomplishments of the ancient Maya civilization who made all their observations with the naked eye. Dr. Smoot also shared with a small crowd the advances made in astrophysics today.

Using computer simulations, he whisked the audience to the very edges of the known universe and brought them back again to earth.

The Mayan view of the heavens were limited, based only on the sun and moon and Venus, as well as other planets and no more than a couple thousand stars; today, with orbital telescopes and other technology, we can “see” billions of not just stars, but galaxies. The universe, Dr. Smoot explains, is a very, very big place.

Smoot also participated in the creation of “Tales of Maya Skies,” a planetarium show about the Maya and Chichen Itza. Researchers came to the ancient city and scanned the monuments with lasers to recreate digital models accurate within two millimeters. From those models they produced a short film.

Smoot’s talk was part of the fourth annual winter school for young physicists on “Essential Cosmology for the Next Generation,” organized by the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics and Mexico’s Advanced Institute for Cosmology.

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Archaeologists Find Dozens of Artifacts in Chichen Itza Sinkhole

February 8th, 2012 by ejalbright

Pots, many believed older than 1,000 years, litter the floor of a cenote near Chichen Itza (SIPSE photo)

[UPDATE: Photos of many of the artifacts that have been recovered can be found HERE.]

Archaeologists have discovered dozens of intact vases from before the time of Columbus at the bottom of a water-filled sinkhole, known as a cenote, that had once been part of the ancient Maya city of Chichen Itza.

Archaeologist Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi told the media that some of the vases are part of the ancient Maya civilization that once thrived at Chichen Itza well before Columbus’s arrival in the New World.

“No doubt, after the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza and X’lakah cenote, located at the site of Dzibilchaltun, this is the greatest number of vessels have been found in the history of underwater exploration in the Maya world,” he said.

Many of the pots recovered from the Sacred Cenote, for example, were damaged in the exavation; the pots in this new cenote, which was not identified other than as being in the vicinity of Chichen Itza, have not been disturbed and are mostly intact.

Access to this cenote must be made by rappelling from the top. The cenote has been described as 51 meters across, about one-quarter the size of Chichen’s Sacred Cenote, but deeper at 35 meters.

Several months ago INAH reported finding numerous skeletons in a cenote near Chichen Itza. It is not known if this find is from the same cenote.

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