Frustration grows in Yucatán as several archaeological sites remain closed

INAH has yet to say when several archaeological sites will reopen. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Several of Yucatán’s archaeological sites remain closed almost two years after shutting their gates to visitors at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pre-Hispanic ruins still closed to the public include Acanceh, Aké, Chacmultún, Grutas de Balamcanché, Loltún, Labná, Oxkintok, Xlapak, and Sayil.

The reasoning given by Mexican authorities that some sites remain closed while others have been open for well over a year has to do with their on-site bathroom facilities.

However, this line of reasoning does not stand up to scrutiny as several of the still-closed sites actually do have bathrooms, as well as hand washing stations.

The claims also do not make much sense in the case of attractions that are not part of an archaeological park per se, but are ancient monuments found among urban populations.

Such is the case in both Izamal and Acanceh, with the latter remaining closed, while the former has had its ancient temples open to the public for well over a year.

Like several other attractions in Yucatán, the Palacio de Los Estucos at Acanceh remains closed for almost two years now. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Critics of the government argue that this lack of consistency has much more to do with economics than with safety or COVID-19 protocols. 

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“The temples at Acanceh have been closed for almost two years now, it makes no sense. The town is bustling with activity now that everyone has been vaccinated, yet tourists are locked out and we can’t do our job,” said a local tour guide who asked to remain anonymous.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that one of Yucatán’s most visited archaeological sites, Dzibilchaltún, also remains closed due to an ongoing dispute between the federal government and local landowners. 

“We were supposed to be getting back to work more normally, but between the failure of the government to reopen attractions for bureaucratic reasons, and the closure of Dzibilchaltún over what amounts to political reasons we are really shooting ourselves in the foot here,” said a tour guide, Raúl Mendoza. 
Despite being closed for several consecutive months in 2020 Chichén Itzá still managed to keep its crown as Yucatán’s biggest tourist attraction. In 2021 the ancient Mayan site attracted well over a million visitors — making it Mexico’s most visited archaeological site for the first time, beating out Teotihuacan, near Mexico City.

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.
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