Mexico has sent 250 National Guard soldiers and 60 police officers to seize a plot of land next to the pre-Hispanic ruins of Teotihuacan, where officials say bulldozers were destroying the exterior of the archeological site.
MEXICO CITY – Mexico sent 250 National Guard soldiers and 60 police officers on Monday to seize land next to the pre-Hispanic ruins of Teotihuacan, where officials have said bulldozers were destroying the exterior of the archeological site .
Mexican archaeological officials reported last week that they had been trying since March to stop the private construction project, but local media say plans to build an amusement park of some sort are ongoing.
The delay in stopping the project underscored how Mexico’s cumbersome, archaic legal system has made it difficult to enforce building codes and zoning laws or prevent illegal construction, even on protected historic sites.
The culture department said that last week it had repeatedly issued orders to stop work since March, but the building staff ignored them. The department estimated that at least 25 ancient structures at the site were at risk, and said it had filed criminal complaints against those responsible.
Apparently, the owners of farm plots are trying to convert the land into a recreation area. The area is just outside and across a street from the site’s famous boulevard and pyramid complex.
The United Nations International Council on Monuments and Sites said that bulldozers threatened to destroy 15 acres (7 ha) at the site, which is a protected area. The council also said that looting of artefacts has been detected.
The United Nations Council said in a statement last week, “Teotihuacan is a symbolic site declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage, representing the highest expression of identity of the people of Mexico.”
The destruction so close to the capital raised questions over Mexico’s ability to protect its ancient heritage sites. Teotihuacan is the country’s most visited archaeological site, with over 2.6 million visitors per year, and Mexico has hundreds of smaller, more remote and often unexplored sites.
Teotihuacan is best known for its twin temples of the Sun and the Moon, but it was actually a large city with over 100,000 inhabitants and covered about 8 square miles (20 square kilometers).
The still mysterious city was the largest in the world at its peak between 100 BCE and 750 AD. But it was abandoned before the rise of the Aztecs in the 14th century.
Even its real name is unclear. Its current name was given to it by the Aztecs. But the Aztec may have actually called the city “Tehuacan” – literally “the city of the Sun” – rather than Teotihuacan, meaning “city of gods” or “the place where men become deities.”
The Pyramids of the Sun or Moon attracted thousands of visitors to spring and autumn each year, before the coronovirus epidemic hit.