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Chichen Itza souvenir vendors to be relocated, says Chapur

Doubling ticket prices for foreigners will fund needed projects at site, hotelier says

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A souvenir vendor offers merchandise at the archeological site Chichen Itza. Photo: 123rf

Doubling the ticket price for foreigners entering Chichen Itza will pay for a plan to evict and relocate souvenir vendors who occupy the archaeological zone, a Yucatecan hotelier said.

José Antonio Chapur Zahoul, president of the Palace Resorts Group, justified the hike by promising an adjacent marketplace for the vendors.

The plan is reminiscent of a failed attempt to build a mall for Merida’s street vendors. The renovated casona offered sanitary facilities and child care for the vendors, but didn’t attract shoppers. It also didn’t keep merchants from continuing to set up on public sidewalks.

Tickets for tourists from outside Mexico rise from 242 pesos (roughly US$12) to 480 pesos (US$24), on Feb. 1, one month later than initially announced.

Tourist promoters protested the rate hike, one threatening to divert visitors to the much less-expensive Tulum ruins.

The extra revenue will also pay for cameras and police intelligence, which reflects what Chapur said is the governor’s priority. Chapur is the powerful leader of the Hotel Association of Cancun and Puerto Morelos. The descendent of the Chapur department stores’ founders was an innovator of all-inclusive resorts in the mid-1980s.

Grumblings about the vendors

The indigenous market vendors, who are tolerated by authorities wishing to avoid a confrontation on sacred Mayan territory, are a source of annoyance for many visitors who complain about them on travel sites.

“The amount of vendors selling trinkets belittles the majestic and proud Maya history,” writes one U.S. visitor on TripAdvisor.

Another American reviewer recently called the site a “semi-flea market” that has gotten worse in recent years.

“I know the vendors are locals that depend on this but it is too much now. They are too many vendors throughout the pathways and next to the ruins. Pathways are covered in litter and garbage,” he wrote. “It is so disappointing that the government would let this happen to such a beautiful archaeological site.”

Even the travel guides warn travelers to expect salespeople to diminish the experience of roaming an ancient Mayan ruin.

“There are souvenir stands absolutely everywhere, selling the likes of t-shirts, wood carvings, shot glasses and figurines,” writes the Canadian site Globe Guide. “Brace yourself for the constant barrage of what sounds like a dying cat — it’s actually vendors blowing through a jaguar whistle. Yes, that’s actually a thing, and it is literally the worst.”

The Matador Network also complains about the sellers’ “relentless” tactics.

“Everyone will want to sell you something, for one dollar, practically free, the best price just for you. And worst of all, the jaguar ‘whistles’ sound like a cross between a crying baby and a sick animal, it is the strangest and most irritating noise I have ever heard!” writes Claire Sturzaker.

But tourists keep coming. Its proximity to large tourist centers on the Caribbean coast lures visitors willing to take a break from the beach.

About the site

Chichen Itzá was the cultural and urban hub of Mayan civilization and is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Chichen Itza was at its apex between 750 and 1200 A.D.

Its most famous structure is the Temple of Kukulkan, or El Castillo, a towering stepped pyramid. Each side has 91 steps leading to a top platform, making the total step count 365, one for each day of the year.

Twice a year, during the autumn and spring equinoxes, a shadow resembling a wavy snake creeps down the temple steps, eventually meeting up with an intricately carved snake head at the base of the stairs.

Other notable sites include the Skull Wall, the Jaguar Temple, the Temple of Warriors and the Great Ball Court.

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