Mexico sent 250 National Guard soldiers and 60 police officers on Monday to seize land near the pre-Hispanic ruins of Teotihuacán, where authorities said bulldozers were destroying peripheral parts of the archaeological site.
Mexican archaeological officials reported last week that they had been trying since March to stop the private construction project, but work continued on what local media say are plans to build some sort of park. attractions.
The National Institute of History and Anthropology said the National Guard helped authorities put in place notices of seizure on property just north of Mexico City. ”The national heritage.
The delay in stopping the project highlighted how Mexico’s outdated and cumbersome legal system makes it difficult to enforce building codes and zoning laws or stop illegal construction, even at protected historic sites. .
The Culture Department said last week it had issued stop-work orders several times since March, but construction crews ignored them. The department estimated that at least 25 old structures at the site were at risk and said it had filed a criminal complaint against those responsible.
Apparently, the owners of agricultural plots are trying to turn the land into a recreation area. The neighborhood is just outside and across from the site’s famous boulevard and pyramid complex.
The United Nations International Council on Monuments and Sites said bulldozers threatened to raze up to 7 hectares at the site, which is a protected area. The council also said the looting of artifacts had been detected.
“Teotihuacán is an emblematic site declared World Heritage by UNESCO, which represents the highest expression of the identity of the Mexican people,” the United Nations Council said in a statement last week.
The destruction so close to the capital has raised questions about Mexico’s ability to protect its ancient heritage sites. Teotihuacan is the most visited archaeological site in the country, with more than 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 that housed over 100,000 residents and covered around 20 square kilometers.
The still mysterious city was one of the largest in the world at its peak between 100 BC and 750 AD. But it was abandoned before the rise of the Aztecs in the 14th century.
Even his real name remains unclear. Its current name was given to it by the Aztecs. But the Aztecs may have called the city “Teohuacan” – literally “the city of the sun” – rather than Teotihuacan, which means “city of the gods” or “place where men become gods”.
The pyramids of the sun or the moon have drawn tens of thousands of visitors for the spring and fall equinoxes each year, before the coronavirus pandemic struck.