In 1988, the archaeological site of Chichen Itza was inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, and on July 7, 2011, the Temple of Kukulcan was recognized as one of the new Seven Wonders of the modern world.
Millions of pesos were invested in the new Light & Sound show “Nights of Kukulcan” to make this destination more attractive to foreign and domestic tourists.
How many countries in the world would like to have a distinction that makes their cultural attractions different from other tourist destinations?
Why are our state authorities not able to resolve a conflict that has been going on for years and has recently grown into gigantic proportions? Are they not capable to conduct the necessary negotiations in order to benefit tourism and local vendors?
News travels fast around the world these days, and the same way Chichen Itza was granted this recognition, the designation can be taken away. The word is out that travelers can not have a quiet visit, because thousands of vendors literally harass them from the entrance to this unique archaeological site.
Yucatecans must wake up and stop this situation; we must realize that thousands of families make their living from tourism, and thanks to this ancient Maya city, millions of tourists come to Yucatán and Quintana Roo.
All the local and regional chambers, associations, committees and other figures are now exposed due to their incompetence to achieve agreements and demand that this situation is over.
But, why has this being going on for so long? What’s really behind this conflict? Why doesn’t the state goverment bring this to a halt?
It’s been said that Governor Rolando Zapata Bello is working with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) to develop a plan to improve conditions at the site and offer better services to visitors.
Hopefully, this plan will be effective, and most important, implemented soon, because the fact is that tourists are complaining about being pestered by peddlers, and that a prompt solution is desperately needed.
Finally, on Wednesday December 30th, the vendor’s leaders Mariana Mex Yam, Susano Pech Can and Juan Pablo Euán Cen, accompanied by their lawyer Villevaldo Pech Moo, declared that they are not intending to leave the premises of the archaeological site, and they demand to negotiate directly with the federal and state governments.
What the artisans claim is that more than 2 million tourists visit Chichen Itza in a one year period, and the people of Pisté (municipality in which the site is located), live in conditions of extreme poverty.
Taking into consideration that tourists pay several hundred pesos for the tours they take either from Merida or Cancun, we are talking about a business of hundreds of millions of pesos a year.
And the locals claim that there is absolutely no social, cultural or urban development for their communities. They say that they do not even have a hospital or any other kind of decent medical facility to treat their own or tourists in case of an emergency.
The local committee that represents more than 800 artisans of Pisté concluded that organizations such as the Tourism Council of Yucatan (Consejo Empresarial Turístico de Yucatán) and the Travel Agencies Association of Quintana Roo (Asociación de Agencias de Viajes de Quintana Roo), are making them look like criminals in the press, when they are just doing their job and trying to make a living out of selling their arts and crafts.
It is up to the state government to show capability of negotiation, and do the best for their people, not to benefit a small group of businessmen, but to work in favor of the people of our beloved Yucatan (for a change).