Chichen Itza is a great pre-Columbian site which used to be a home of the ancient civilization Maya. The archeological site is located in Yucatan Peninsula and presents one of the most famous archeological sites in Mexico, “Chichen Itza has been considered one of the most important sites in the north portion of the peninsula, while the influence it has cast on the entire region has also been recognized” (Ruiz 84).
Since 1980s the site it is visited by thousands of tourists yearly which influences negatively on the cultural site. For this reason, INAH closed some monuments for public access. In this report, I am going to explore environmental, historical, socio-political and cultural issues that influence the site nowadays.
Considering the fact that the territory where the site is situated has long been transformed by humans:
“research has shown that many of the seemingly pristine forests were cleared centuries ago and have grown back, the grassland selectively burned or gazed, the mountains carved into terraces, and the waters of the deserts stored or diverted” (Marston, Knox, and Liverman 234).
The “appearance” of the site changed greatly. In addition, climate change and hazards caused by global warming, land use and human activity impact the cultural monuments of the site which causes their destruction. Thus, today, the tourists are not allowed to climb the monuments as it was previously, they can only walk around them at the visitor’s sector.
Moreover, as “Latin American’s climate does not remain constant from year to year” (Marston, Knox, and Liverman 236), one of the most important hazards from which suffers the site is El Nino – “a periodic warming of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific off the coast of Peru that results in worldwide changes in climate, including droughts and floods” (Marston, Knox, and Liverman 236).
In this light, physical actions taken by human are the main causes which influence clime which, in its turn, influences negatively on ruins of Chichen Itza.
These days, it is the most famous touristic site, “regularly bus tours take tourists to Chichen Itza which is probably the most important and best restored site of the northern Maya culture”. (Wong 57).
As Chichen Itza is a famous tourist spot, the regions around it could not avoid economic and demographic changes. The popular migration in the region began in 1843 after the book by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan was published where they described Chichen Itza inclusively.
Since then, the exploration of the city began. Later, in 1920’s Fernando Barbachano Peon started the official tourism in the region which provoked considerable economic and demographic changes. Later, the majority of the historical monuments became the federal ownership.
And a “Federal Law over Monuments and Archeological, Artistic and Historical sites” was established. These days, the majority of population is engaged in the tourism activity. There are many hotels and a famous tourist resort of Cancun near the site which serves the main source of income for the government and people.
Though, the place is considered to be an ancient Maya city, “the most imposing buildings are not at all typical of Classic Mayan architecture, and show strong influences from non-Mayan Central Mexico” (Rider 65). The processes of migration in pre-Hispanic and after-Hispanic periods changed the basics of the Maya culture and today, the culture of the city is diverse.
In addition, “Chichen Itza emerged as a significant city around 700, as a result of the convergence of several different groups in the northern Yucatan” (Rider 77). The flow of tourists also changed the demographic situation in the region.
As it has already been mentioned, the site is a touristic spot and the majority of the population is engaged into tourism. When the city was populated, it was a great trade center. Isla Cerritos was the main port and beneficial geographical position allowed the city to lead maritime trade with distant areas in Mexico and Central America.
The Chichen Itza ceramics was very popular in the region. Today’s main trade is concentrated in the local areas and local population provides goods and services for tourist trade. In fact, tourists constitute new population of the region and locals feel pressure. In this light, there is a high risk for the region to be overwhelmed by tourists.
The process of globalization did not go by the region. The impact of tourism activities is great, thus UNESCO took the situation under control and announced Chichen Itza one of the most important World Heritage Sites and promotes conservation of the region.
The tourist trips are controlled and there is a project to develop an alternative tourism in the region which will not impact cultural heritage that has a great historical significance.
Thus, we can come to a conclusion that Chchen Itza, which is one of the most popular touristic destinations in the world, suffers from the humans’ activities which cause climate, social and socio-political changes in the nearby regions.
Conservation and alternative tourism are the issues of the prime importance for the government, as its main task is to preserve the historic site and, at the same time support the economic stability in the region.
Marston, Sallie. A, Paul l. Knox, and Diana M. Liverman. World Regions in Global Context: Peoples, Places, and Environments, 4th ed., Prentice Hall, 2010.
Rider, Nick. Yucatan and Mayan Mexico, 3rd. Connecticut: New Holland Publishers, 2005
Ruiz, Francisco Perez. “Walled Compounds: An Interpretation of the Deffencive System at Chichen Itza, Yucatan” Web. 20 Apr. 2011.
Wong, Po. P. Tourism vs. Environment: The Case for Coastal Areas. Norwell: Springer, 1993.