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Ancient monuments in Teotihuacan endangered by illegal construction

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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.
View of the pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan and the growing settlement at its back. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Heavy machinery used for illegal construction near the Teotihuacan archaeological site is threatening the conservation of ancient monuments northeast of Mexico City.

The ruins of Teotihuacan cover 24 square kilometers and are surrounded on all sides by urban sprawl.

Federal and local authorities have ordered a halt to the construction, but this has not stopped the advance of construction crews. 

Illegal settlements have been a problem in much of the region for decades. But governments have refused to bring order to the situation out of fear of a political backlash. 

“For months now, shielding themselves behind a large wall, workers using heavy machinery have been working in Teotihuacan. This is despite several suspensions issued by the INAH. Work has continued in the red city of Oztoyahualco,” @Cuauhtemoc_1521 said on Twitter.

“Archaeologists working at the site have received threats from settlers armed with sticks and stones,” said the archaeological site director, Rogelio Rivero Chong.

Earlier: The majesty of the great Bonampak and its mesmerizing frescoes

Although construction is not taking place inside the core of the ancient city, the area possesses archaeological remains that date back almost 2,000 years.

Mexico’s Institute for History and Anthropology (INAH) says that construction is jeopardizing at least 25 historical monuments, but that may be an undercount.

The city of Teotihuacan was built by Nahua, likely in the 2nd century BCE. The remains of the ancient city are now one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico.

Restored inner patio in Teotihuacan. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

At its peak almost 2,000 years ago, Teotihuacan was the largest city in Mesoamerica. Conservative estimates calculate its population at around 125,000, making it the sixth-largest city in the world at the time. 

The Teotihuacan ruins and its municipality of the same name are 45 kilometers from the nation’s capital. 

As much of the area has been settled illegally, residents have improvised solutions to meet their needs for electricity and water. 

Authorities claim that they do not know who is responsible for the encroachment into the restricted area, but that they will continue investigating.

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