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Chichén Itzá aims to reopen its dazzling light-and-sound shows

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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.
Over the years, the show at Chichén Itzá has received several upgrades such as sophisticated video mapping. Photograph: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Light-and-sound shows in Yucatán were canceled in March due to the COVID-19 -pandemic. However, the Diario de Yucatan has reported that Yucatan’s culture and tourism authority expects the spectacles to return to Chichén Itzá and Uxmal next February. 

The mixed-media experiences have been held in Yucatán since the 1970s.

These shows known in Spanish as “luz y sonido” are designed to illuminate and highlight specific features of ancient structures. At the same time, a pre-recorded audio track presents the audience with music, information and legends about the Maya. In recent years the show at Chichén Itzá has been rebranded as “Kukulkán Nights.”

The inaugural show of this type was held in 1975 at the archaeological site of Uxmal, and was witnessed by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh. When the presentation reached the point where the sound system played the prayer to Chaac, the Maya rain god, a sudden and unexpected torrential downpour began.

In April 2010, Elton John held a concert at Chichén Itzá which utilized many aspects of the iconic show including updated technologies such as video mapping. This show and the events which preceded it, such as the collapse of the stage before the beginning of the concert and the fall suffered by then-Gov. Ivonne Ortega Pacheco, have become legendary amongst yucatecos. Though many at the time blamed the chaos on the mythical alux — a species of mischievous gnome of yucateco folklore.

More recently, archaeological sites outside of Yucatán have also developed similar shows, such as Edzná in Campeche and El Tajín in Veracruz. 

In early 2020, the state government announced that Dziblichaltun will be getting its own light and sound show, at a cost of 57 million MX. The attraction was to be unveiled in March of the same year during the festivities of  the Tianguis Turístico, Mexico’s most important tourism industry trade show. No firm date has been offered for when the inaugural show will take place.

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