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Controversial Manzanero concert at Chichén Itzá is approved

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Elton John performs at Chichen Itza in 2010. Photo: Luis PEREZ/AFP/Getty Images

After almost a year-and-a-half of planning, organizers obtained conditional approval to hold the Armando Manzanero concert at Chichén Itzá on Feb. 3.

Concert events at the archaeological site have been controversial, with concerns over physical damage to one of the wonders of the modern world. Critics also question the appropriateness of using a Mayan pyramid as a concert backdrop.

The iconic Yucatecan singer will be accompanied by Alex Lora, Tania Libertad, Paquito D’Rivera, Gaby Moreno, his son Juan P. Manzanero, as well as the Orquesta Tipica de Yucalpetén and the Ballet Folklorico de Yucatán.

“The reason we got permission is because we celebrate Manzanero in his home and we are supporting foundations that do something good for Mexicans,” said Manuel Reta Calcaneo, producer of the event, at a press conference.

Part of the proceeds will go to the organizations Reforestamos México, an environmental group; and Ponte Oreja, a nonprofit that gives hearing aids to low-income families. When asked about what percentage of the proceeds will be sent to these associations, Reta Calcaneo was evasive, according to La Jornada Maya.

“Our goal with Reforestar is to pay for the entire education program in rural communities,” he said, adding that he didn’t have the authority to share precise numbers.

Ten hearing-aid recipients, as well as various area residents, will be given free tickets to the concert. For the general public, tickets range from 500 to 14,000 pesos, with the higher price including free transportation from Siglo XXI Convention Center.

The concert will last two hours and will open with a Mayan ceremony. Tickets can be obtained through Ticketmaster.

Concerts were on track to be fairly routine at the archaeological site until 2010, when stage gear partially collapsed at an Elton John concert. No damage to the site was reported, but the incident was enough to put the kibosh on large-scale music events, including a Paul McCartney concert in 2011.

Even within INAH, 100 union employees staged protests, saying that the Mayan archaeological site should not be used for commercial purposes.

This is familiar ground for Mérida-born Manzanero, who is 81 and of Mayan ancestry. The singer-songwriter performed at Chichén Itzá in 2008 for a show headlined by Placido Domingo.

Manzanero’s most famous works include “Voy a Apagar la Luz” (“I’m Going to Turn Off the Light”), “Contigo Aprendí” (“With You I Learned…”) and “Adoro” (“I Adore”). Elvis Presley, Andrea Bocelli, Tony Bennett, Perry Como and Luis Miguel have all borrowed from his songbook.

With information from La Jornada Maya

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