Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Archaeology, xcaret, fairness and access to cultural heritage sites.

As I mentioned in my previous post (the one with the bird photos) my sister Maggie and I made our way to Xcaret last weekend. Being an avid fan of Mayan archaeology I of course made my way straight to the different areas of the park which contain pre-hispanic archaeological remains. I had visited the Xcaret about a decade before, but I was pleased to learn there was now a bit more to see.

While for many visitors to Xcaret the "ruins" may seem somewhat underwhelming particularly when compared to larger archaeological tourist mecas such as Chichen Itza, I have a great fondness for these kinds of smaller sites. Furthermore, the architecture in Xcaret is by no means insignificant and is in fact fairly representative of Maya architecture of the northwest Yucatan peninsula coastline; the most well known example of which is of course Tulum.

In the mind of most tourists, the "value" of archaeological sites is clearly tied at least in part to aesthetic considerations and aesthetics in archaeological terms is largely tied to a certain massiveness of scale. While this is certainly understandable and I do not expect holiday makers to share the depth of my interest in Mayan archaeology I find the obsession with only the most of monumental sites problematic. In any case I digress.

What I find most troubling about the archaeological site at Xcaret is the fact that despite its purview under the INAH (Instituto Nacional de AntropologĂ­a e Historia) and the fact that the site is clearly "open" to the public, access to the site is hampered by Xcaret Park and the truly unreasonable entrance fee of 100+USD. Now, don´t get me wrong Xcaret has the right to charge what ever they want for entrance to their park and the ticked does indeed include quite a bit to do for the price, the problem is that the archaeological remains which lay in the park and are maintained by the INAH (A publicly funded institution) are not the property of Xcaret but rather of the Mexican people who are for the most part bared entrance to the site by the high cost of admission. While Xcaret is not the only park/attraction in this situation it is certainly (to my knowledge) the largest and most visited.

There are many other archaeological sites which are accesible to the public, but that is not the point. I do not mean to nitpick, but I find something fishy in the fact that an archaeological site maintained by a publicly funded institution is made inaccessible to the vast majority of the Mexican citizenry. I am not in any way against parks such as Xcaret but it seems to me that this a discussion worth having.

Am I over reacting?

In any case, hope you enjoy the photos.


norm said...

I;ve always skipped Xcaret because of the cost. I had no idea about a ruin being within their compound. I remember driving the road to Chetumal when I was in my 20s, the locals had built houses on many of the Maya platforms along the road.

Carlos Rosado said...

Normally I would also skip it, but I was at Xcaret for work... so it worked out quite well. It is an interesting site, but yeah... the entrance fee is quite steep.