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Indigenous groups call for a stop to the Mayan Train and the return of artifacts

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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.
Indigenous groups say that the protection of their heritage needs to be prioritized over the wants of business or the government. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Activists say that 10,000 artifacts excavated during the construction of the Mayan Train should be returned to the communities from which they were taken. 

The relics were in the path of the Mayan Train, which is designed to criss-cross the Yucatán Peninsula. 

“It may be time to consider the cancelation of the Mayan Train. We should be prioritizing the Mayan way of life and culture, not the interests of the government and business,” said Pedro Uc, representative of the Asamblea de Defensores del Territorio Maya Múuch Xíinbal.

Indigenous leaders have suggested that the Mayan Train’s 170-billion-peso budget be allocated to build hospitals and provide essential services for people living in poverty across the region.

Representatives from Mexico’s national institute of history and anthropology (INAH) say that all excavated artifacts are being carefully cataloged and stored at a central location. 

“There is really no need for controversy here. We are following well-established scientific procedures. Work is ongoing and at this point, there is no point in speculating what the future will bring,” said an INAH Yucatán delegate, Eduardo López Calzada. 

Earlier: The company that built the collapsed Mexico City subway line is now working on the Maya Train 

The removal of archaeological artifacts from territories claimed by indigenous people has long been a contentious issue in Mexico.

In 1964, a monolith depicting the Nahua deity Tláloc was removed against the wishes of locals from the indigenous community of Coatlinchán. The enormous monolith was then placed at the entrance of the then-new INAH museum of history and anthropology in Mexico City. 

A monolith depicting the Nahua deity Tláloc was moved to Mexico City by orders of President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz Bolaños in 1964. Photo: Courtesy

The first phase of construction of the Tren Maya began in May 2020. The project is intended to connect Mexico’s southeast via rail and possibly with Central America, bringing tourists and cargo to one of the nation’s poorest areas.

Last week, government authorities acknowledged that the Mayan Train rail project was behind schedule, with only 10% of its infrastructure being complete. The deadline for the entire Mayan Train project has been set for December 2023.

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