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Thousands flock to witness Spring Equinox illusion in Chichén Itzá under the ‘new normal’

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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.
The descent of Kukulcán was fully visible just before 4 p.m. on March 19 through the 21. Photo: Courtesy

Huge crowds gathered over the weekend to observe the spring equinox at the archeological site of Chichén Itzá.

During this phenomenon a shadow is cast down El Castillo’s pyramid, creating the illusion that the famed feathered serpent has come to life. 

Despite concerns that the weather or politics would ruin the spectacle, the event went off without a hitch.

The site’s capacity was limited to 15,000 people out of concern for the security of Chichén Itzá’s historic monuments, as well as the spread of COVID-19.

After roughly 3 p.m. the maximum capacity had already been reached or surpassed, making access impossible.

Video by Diario de Yucatán showing long lines of tourists trying to get into Chichén Itzá.

On “normal” days at Chichén Itzá, tourists spread across the massive site. But during the spring equinox, eager visitors tend to tightly huddle in front of El Castillo to observe the astronomical spectacle. 

Chichén Itzá and several other Maya archaeological sites are known to attract all sorts of people, including new-age practitioners who see in the ancient ruins a source of ancient power. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Though the use of facemasks was compulsory, many tourists had to be reminded time and time again to wear them, while they complained about the over 100-degree heat. 

Earlier: Beware of new Chichén Itzá hot air balloon scam

Aside from INAH security, Chichén Itzá was also heavily patrolled by uniformed police officers and national guard.

guarded by police keeping tourists from using it as a loophole to get in. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

As is typical in Chichén Itzá, among the crowds were large numbers of vendors selling everything from handicrafts to hats and umbrellas to help beat the heat. 

Chichén Itzá received so many visitors over the weekend that tour buses crowded the entire parking lot, forcing visitors to park illegally on the side of the highway. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The ever-growing popularity of Chichén Itzá as a tourism destination has raised concerns regarding preservation and led to several measures intended to protect its ancient monuments. 

Some of these have included blocking access to climbing its structures as well as a “shrinking” of the site which renders previously open areas of the ancient city unexplorable.

However, INAH announced last year that Chichén Itzá would soon have a second entrance, enabling visitors to explore a section of the site known as Chichén Viejo or Old Chichén. 

This section of the site is unlikely to open its gates before next year. But INAH has said that It will only be accessible through reservations.

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