Tourist revenue should go to impoverished communities, and more nearby land should be released from private ownership, indigenous vendors say. Photo: Desde el Balcon

Merida, Yucatan — The roughly 800 artisans and merchants who have set up souvenir stands at Chichen Itza warned that they will not leave the archaeological zone and demanded that the federal authorities expropriate more than 800 privately owned hectares near the site.

Tensions between authorities and vendors have been ongoing. The vendors claim ancestral rights to the land, but visitors commonly complain that the flea-market atmosphere is distracting.

The indigenous market vendors, who are tolerated by authorities wishing to avoid a confrontation, are often complained about on travel sites such as TripAdvisor.

“The amount of vendors selling trinkets belittles the majestic and proud Maya history,” writes one American visitor. “It is so disappointing that the government would let this happen to such a beautiful archaeological site,” writes another.

Travelers have also doubted that the souvenirs are Yucatecan artisan pieces, or mass-produced from as far away as China.

Authorities have tried relocating the vendors to a covered market place, funded by increased ticked prices. Sellers would lose foot traffic, however, if forced from the walking paths at the archaeological site.

INAH Director Diego Prieto recently visited the area along with colleague Eduardo López Calzada to enter into a dialogue, but with no agreement.

Villevaldo Pech, the vendors’ legal representative, said 15 percent of Chichen Itza’s tourist revenue should go to area municipalities to target poverty.

“It is urgent to build schools and hospitals in this area, as well as improve housing infrastructure, as most of these families do not have bathrooms or potable water,” he said.

“The artisans are not going to leave the archaeological zone of Chichen Itza because the authorities of the INAH and the state government maintain a closed dialogue and violate the rights of the indigenous peoples. Therefore, although the law of INAH says that artisans should not work within the area, first they must respect the uses and customs,” Pech said.

Source: Desde el Balcon