Mexican cartel violence leaves some Mayan ruins inaccessible to tourists

NEWS: Mexican cartel violence leaves some Mayan ruins inaccessible to tourists



Multiple ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico are inaccessible due to cartel violence in a blow to tourism in the country’s southern state.

Mexico’s government admitted that tourists can no longer get to at least two of the popular Mayan sites and tour guides in the state of Chiapas told the Associated Press that additional ruins that the government claims are open are only accessible by passing through the gang-controlled checkpoints.

Drug cartel violence in Chiapas has exploded over the last year, hurting tourism — a major source of economic opportunity for locals of the Mexican state near the Guatemala border.

The Yaxchilán and Tonina historic sites have been cut off from travelers — the first due to the violence and the latter due to a land ownership dispute, Mexican officials admitted.

But tour guides — who asked for anonymity for their safety — told the publication that gunmen often line the road to Bonampak, a Mayan site famous for its murals.

Mexico’s government are telling tourists they can no longer explore two of the popular Mayan sites and tour guides in the state of Chiapas due to the uprising in cartel violence. Print Collector/Getty Images

They said yet another tourist spot, Lagartero, is plagued with cartel members ordering checkpoints in which they demand travelers hand over their identification and unlocked cellphones.

Two competing cartels in the area set up the checkpoints to keep an eye on one another and their moves.

The Mexican government maintains that the archeological sites are safer and said no tourists have been harmed. Still, many tour guides won’t take the risk and avoid the cartel’s eyes.

Drug cartel violence in Mexico has hurt tourism tremendously — a major source of economic opportunity for locals. Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“They demand your identification, to see if you’re a local resident,” he said, describing a nearly permanent gang checkpoint on the road to Lagartero.

“They take your cellphone and demand your sign-in code, and then they look through your conversations to see if you belong to some other gang,” he added. “At any given time, a rival group could show up and start a gunbattle.”

Mexican officials hit back at the claims regarding violence near Lagartero and Bonampak, stating both were open to the public.

Tour guides told the publication that gunmen often line the road to major Mayan sites famous for its murals. Design Pics Editorial/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“It is false, biased and irresponsible to say that these archaeological sites are in danger from drug traffickers,” said the National Institute of Anthropology and History, which claimed it “retains control of the sites.”

Fortunately, the most famous Mayan site in the Chiapas, the Palenque temple complex, is open and safe for tourists,

Even so, travelers have canceled about 5% of trips booked to the region — and residents are worried it could severely hurt the economy that hugely depends on tourism money.

The Mexican government claims the archeological sites are safer and said no tourists have been harmed, however many travelers don’t want to take the risk of exploring the areas. VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“There are communities that sell handicrafts, that provide places to stay, boat trips, craftspeople. It affects the economy a lot,” one of the local guides said. “You have to remember that this is an agricultural state that has no industry, no factories, so tourism has become an economic lever, one of the few sources of work.”

With Post wires



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