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.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Birding with "cheat codes"

This past weekend I made my way with my sister Maggie to Xcaret for the day for work. It had been about 10 years since I had last been to the park and despite my initial reservations I quite enjoyed myself. Xcaret is a massive "Eco-park" about 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen... and while it is by somewhat considered a tourist trap, it is quite a nice place to spend the day... especially if you have kinds. For the most part the animal enclosures are pretty good as far as animal enclosures go. That being said attractions such as swimming with dolphins, rays and sea lions make me quite uncomfortable; but maybe I will make this a topic for a future post. In any case the aviary was quite cool and jam packed with several interesting natives species. I only brought my 18-250 mm lens with me (which was stupid) but still managed to get a few nice shots. I joked with my sister that this was not really birding and was more a kin to "birding with a cheat code unlocked". Perhaps if you are unfamiliar with video game cheat codes this metaphor will not really work, but yeah, this is the way it felt. Still, it was very much a fun day.