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INAH claims new WaPo reporting on the Mayan Train is full of lies and inaccuracies

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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.
INAH says that its mandate to protect Mexico’s cultural heritage means that it would never contribute to the destruction of archaeological sites. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The federal agency in charge of protecting Mexico’s cultural heritage strongly denied reports that it was allowing the Mayan Train project to destroy underground archaeological sites.

INAH accused the Washington Post and reporter Kevin Sieff  of lies and slander after it published a story headlined “AMLO’s Tren Maya will destroy Yucatan treasures.” That report was the Post’s most-read story in its Americas section on Tuesday. 

Because the Mayan Train has been declared a matter of national security, the spread of alleged misinformation or slander could potentially be considered criminal under Mexican law.  

But the claim that the Mayan Train project is a danger to Mayan ruins on the Peninsula traces back to when the project was first announced.  

The national security decree sidesteps all environmental regulations and gives regulatory agencies five days to grant a year-long approval for anything the government wants to build.

But Sieff is not alone in making such claims, as several other journalists, archaeologists, geologists, and indigenous leaders have spoken out against the Mayan Train, or Tren Maya, project. 

“To say that there is no destruction going on is laughable. Entire Mayab sites are being wiped off the map. The difference is that because these sites are being labeled as dismantled by the INAH, they don’t catalog the action as destruction, as that would, of course, be illegal,” said an INAH archaeologist who asked to be identified simply as Miguel

Earlier: New Mayan Train route to run directly over cenotes

If this is indeed the case, INAH’s argument comes down to semantics and the meaning of the word “destruction.” 

That being said, the orderly dismantling or burying of archaeological remains in the interest of private landowners or government projects is a relatively common practice in Mexico.

For example, several archaeological sites have been dismantled in Yucatán over the past decade to make way for new suburbs. Efforts are also often taken to protect the most significant discoveries and create parks around them. 

The remains of a larger archaeological complex known as San Antonio Hool was allegedly at least in part dismantled by the INAH to build the Las Américas suburb to the north of Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

There is also widespread concern that the construction of the Mayan Train will result in untold damage to the Yucatán’s Peninsula ecosystem, despite the now infamous remarks by AMLO in 2018: “Not a single tree will fall because of the Mayan Train,”

Construction of a large suburb has begun in Tamanche, which cuts straight through an archaeological site of the same name. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Yucatán Magazine has made several requests to INAH concerning the status of several archaeological sites but has received no reply. 

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