Sunday, December 05, 2010
death on the flats
Sometimes you read a news story and hope it is an April Fool's joke.
Or a headline in The Onion.
That is what I felt when I read: "2,300-Year-old Maya ruins destroyed for pastureland." A story in Friday's FoxNews Latino.
The cultural stereotypes are overwhelming. Rancher destroys buildings that pre-date the birth of Christ -- to get a little bit richer by growing tough beef. It could be right of the Amazon.
But it was true. No joking. No leg pulling. No sardonic wit wrapped in irony.
You may have heard the name Chicxulub. To most of us, it is the name of the impact crater created when an asteroid or comet struck the Earth and turned dinosaurs into PEMEX fill-ups.
But it is also a village. Almost at the exact center of the crater. Thus, the name.
But it will soon be known for another disaster.
Here are the basic facts.
About three months ago, a rancher bought some land near the village of Chicxulub. There were some mounds that were too irregular for cattle grazing. So, he hired some heavy machinery to bulldoze the land into billiard board pastureland.
The problem is that the mounds were the ruins of a registered Mayan settlement from the Pre-classical period. Some of the buildings were 2,300 years old.
The machinery destroyed walls, roofs, and stairways of the main complex, as well as seven buildings and two altars that stood in the main square -- the largest more than 10 feet tall.
And this was no small grouping. It covered 250 acres.
The National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH), the Mexican agency responsible for protecting registered sites, determined the settlement suffered "irreversible" damage. The nucleus of the settlement was directly affected. "Total and irreparable" was the conclusion.
I felt almost as outraged as I did when the Taliban destroyed the Bamyan Buddhas.
Of course, the rancher took the usual two-step denial. I didn't do it. And no one told me it was an archaeological site.
Really? Mounds on the Yucatán flats.
What did he think they were -- South African termite hills?
He didn't bother with the true subtext: "I thought I would get away with it."
On our trip, Islagringo and I talked about the number of ruins that are still undiscovered throughout the Yucatán. And there are many. But this one was rather obvious.
And only a few kilometers from Dzibilchaltún -- the first site we visited on this trip.
The whole thing makes me sad.
It will be interesting to see what happens.
But I think I already know that story, as well.
And it has an ending no happier than the end of the Mayan cities we visited.
Tomorrow, we will return to the road trip. I just could not let this one pass without comment.