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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Officials and agencies brace for spring-equinox onslaught of tourists

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Chichen Itza’s feathered “serpent.” Photo: Getty

Mérida, Yucatán — Chichén Itza is expected to be slammed with visitors between March 19 and 21.

That’s when about 33,000 visitors will hope to witness the archaeo-astronomical phenomenon of descent of Kukulcán, said Dafne López Martínez, of the state tourism department.

The illusion caused by the sun’s angle is a huge draw every equinox at the famous El Castillo pyramid, where a carved feathered serpent appears to be slithering down the staircase.

Special security operations, already in place for the Holy Week onslaught, are being arranged for the spring equinox, which brings visitors to both the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá and, to a lesser extent, Dzibilchaltún.

The state agency is coordinating with state and federal police forces, the Attorney General’s Office, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and other agencies, to guarantee the order and safety of tourists in these important archaeological zones, said López Martínez.

In 2017, roughly the same number of visitors came last year at this time for the illusion, which is actually visible for at a day or two before and after the spring equinox. Tourists fly in from around the world.

The effect begins about three hours before sunset. At the beginning, a form of undulating light can be seen on the railing of the temple’s main staircase. The effect is fleeting, lasting around 10 minutes before it gradually begins to disappear.

Clear skies are necessary for the illusion to work. If it’s a flop, travelers have another chance to see the serpent on Sept. 22, the autumnal equinox.

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