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Thursday, December 8, 2022

A new blockade shuts down Dzibilchaltún, creating uncertainty

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
The protestors set up tents and hung signs claiming that the archaeological site belongs to the ejido of Chablekal. Photo: Courtesy

After reopening just in time for the Tianguis Turístico Mexico, access to the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltún has been blocked off yet again. 

A series of unexpected closures and reopenings began in June 2021, when a group of protestors blocked the gates to the site claiming ownership over the land the historic site sits upon. 

An agreement was reported to have been reached between the government and the protestors late last year. But now, a subset of the original group has apparently splintered off and closed off Dzibilchaltún, claiming that they were not satisfied with the agreement.

“We have nothing to do with this closure, we consider the matter closed,” said Chablekal’s ejido leader Víctor Cauich Romero, who had spearheaded previous protests and site closures. 

The dispute traces back 62 years when the protestors allege that the INAH illegally expropriated their ejido lands and declared them federal property.

Earlier: The famed Olmec capital of La Venta, more than just giant heads

“Dzibilchaltún belongs to us because it belongs to the Chablekal’s ejido. We will not move until our grievances have been addressed,” said an ejido leader, Manuel Aban in June 2021. 

Under Mexican law, all archaeological sites are considered federal property and are run by the INAH, the agency in charge of safeguarding Mexico’s heritage.

Though the protestors are clearly breaking the law, the government has refused to use force to lift their blockades out of concerns for the optics of forcibly removing Maya people from an ancient Maya site. 

Dzibilchaltún is one of the most-visited archaeological sites in Yucatán with an average of well over 30,000 annual visitors before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Closures of the archaeological site have been condemned by people working in the tourism industry who insist that it is time for the government to intervene —  by force if necessary. 

“How are we supposed to work and schedule tours if we do not know if the site will even be open?” said tour operator Manuel Rosales.

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