Workers at Mexico’s National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH) are planning a weekend-long protest which intends to close down several archaeological sites across the country.
Cutbacks to their benefits combined with constant delays in pay have made the protests inevitable, the workers said.
“On Friday, April 16 we will begin closing down access to sites across the country. We know that this will hurt tourism but we need to defend our rights,” said union spokesperson Daniel Vega Cepeda.
Chichén Itzá and Uxmal are said to be among the archaeological sites which workers said would be closed to visitors.
However, unofficial sources have reported that the Yucatán state government is negotiating with INAH union representatives to ensure that Chichén Itzá remains open.
On Saturday, April 10, teachers, staff, and students from the INAH’s educational branch staged a protest in front of the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City.
After a couple of hours in which workers chanted slogans, the protests turned violent. Protesters claim that the violent acts were perpetrated by agitators sent by the INAH to disrupt the rally.
Several artisan collectives have expressed concern over the possible closing of archaeological sites over the weekend. Their livelihoods are dependent on their ability to sell their goods at the sites.
“Frankly we have had more than enough disruptions already because of the pandemic. It’s easy for the INAH workers to stage such a protest and close the site down, they have unions and get paid anyway,” said artisan collective representative Mariana Mex.
Due to COVID-19 contingencies, only 24 of Mexico’s 194 archaeological sites are open to the public. In Yucatán these sites include Chichén Itza, Uxmal, Dzibilchaltún and Ek Balam.
Recently, Chichén Itzá closed down over the Easter holiday because of concerns that tourists had not been wearing face masks. The site was also shut down over the spring equinox, in order to avoid crowds.
The economic impact of the pandemic on the INAH has been tremendous. The institute depends on admissions to its archaeological sites and museums to finance its payroll and large bureaucracy.