They warn UNESCO about damage from Maya Train

Design for Maya Train station in Tulum.

The Maya Train Project will connect on the same route 6 assets inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List: the pre-Hispanic city and national park of Palenque, the fortified historical city of Campeche, the pre-Hispanic city of Uxmal, the pre-Hispanic city of Chichén-Itzá, ancient Mayan City and the protected tropical forests of Calakmul, and Sian Ka’an in Quintana Roo. More than 10,000 archaeological vestiges have been found on the route where they’re constructing the train tracks.

By: Yessica Morales

Members of #SelvameDelTren delivered a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) about the danger that the Maya Train/Tren Maya is causing to the nation’s natural and cultural heritage. 

They recalled that Mexico had ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage adopted in 2001. Therefore, said agreement reflects the cultural and historical relevance of this heritage in the country and world, as well as the importance of its care and protection.

The Convention, being in the first place a legal instrument of international scope and Mexico a state party, establishes the ethical and legal commitment for the protection, conservation and correct investigation of the nation’s underwater cultural heritage. Adhering to the provisions and General Principles of the 2001 Convention.

Thus, given the responsibility acquired by Mexico before UNESCO and other organizations involved in the preservation of cultural heritage, the members went to that body motivated by the risk posed by the underwater cultural heritage that lies in the caves and cenotes [the Sac Actun System] of the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo.

Sistema Sac Actun. Data from INEGI/QRSS/Kambesis&Coke (2016)

In that sense, they pointed out that it’s in this region of the Mexican Caribbean, where the most extensive flooded cave systems on the planet are located. In their interior, remote archaeological and paleontological vestiges have been discovered, such as the origin of man in America.

Among these early humans of the continent is Eva de Naharon, the oldest human fossil reported on the American continent, members of the campaign explained.

Likewise, the osteological evidence of the ten pre-ceramic humans discovered so far in these caves, now flooded, indicates the occupation of the area by these prehistoric humans towards the end of the last Ice Age.

On the other hand, the vestiges recovered and those that are still there, as well as the caves that shelter them, form part of the archaeological contexts that talk about the history of these prehistoric ancestors and of the caves that provided them refuge and protection in life, a grave and eternal rest in death.

The Woman de Las Palmas, a pre-historic woman of Quintana Roo, raises questions about when and how our ancestors arrived on this continent.

Unfortunately, this heritage is in danger of disappearing forever, members of the campaign stressed.

Given the above, they stressed that the construction of section 5 of the Maya Train project puts at risk the remarkable natural and cultural heritage of Mexico and humanity by trying to build the train tracks near the caves and vestiges that lie there.

In addition, they don’t have reasonable time for an adequate archaeological prospection, which allows safeguarding what’s already known and investigate what is still to be discovered.

Given the eminent risk to the natural and cultural archaeological heritage found in this peculiar and unique geological and geographical region of the Yucatán Peninsula, they requested UNESCO’s intervention.

Thus, the body may generate the due legal protection that ensures the conservation of that heritage, as well as to promote its adequate research in accordance with the Convention and the good practices established for the archaeological research.

Gran Cenote – Tulum

Given the relevance of the archaeological and paleontological heritage found inside the Mexican cenotes of the Rivera Maya, the beauty of the underwater cavernous landscapes, as well as the importance of water to sustaining the biodiversity and ecosystems on which they depend, they indicated that this area complies with the criteria of Exceptional Universal Value, in order to be considered a Mixed World Heritage Site.


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo, Thursday, July 7, 2022, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


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