Tourism on Archaeology & Culture on the Maya Riviera

Tourism is the main source of revenue countries such as Mexico whose rich culture, history, and archaeological sites make it one of the popular tourist destinations in the world. This nation has unique ancient features that make it ideal to share with the world.  Tourism can be beneficial to the rural economies, especially those located near archaeological sites. The shift from a subsistence economy to the commercialized tourist-oriented economy has affected the Maya community. Mexico’s rich history and archaeological sites have not benefited the locals; Mexicans are poor peasants with many of them lacking access to basic needs. Although tourism provides revenues, a larger percentage of the revenue goes back to foreign investors without consideration of local needs.

The Mexican government has invested in tourism by improving infrastructures and building resort centers in places such as Cancun and Maya Rivera. Mexican archaeological sites offer unique futures, and they are some of the important cultural heritage that defines the local community. Hence, Mexico has transformed these resources for tourism purposes (Juárez, 2002). The Maya community is one of the most dominant societies living in Mexico, and it is rich in resources such as archaeological ruins, tropical jungles with an exotic animal, plants, and Caribbean beaches that are significant sources of the tourist attraction (Juárez, 2002). However, the archaeological sites are not well managed and are more like ruins.  The government developed an expansive plan to establish several medium-sized cities and luxury entities to attract the tourist population.

            Many scholars have expressed concern about the effects of the tourism industry on the local culture. The major attraction in the region is private businesses with varied modern activities for tourists that do not reflect the local culture.  Walker (2009) analyzes some of the archaeological sites in Yucatan peninsula to reveal the Maya Rivera growth from the early 1970s. She examines the impact of tourism on the ancient structures and the Mayan culture. The rapid transformation of an economy comes with severe effects like loss of identity, place, and the displacement of local culture (Juárez, 2002). The impacts of transformation include the social, cultural, and economic impact that has caused poverty. The transformation of the Maya community into a servile class is meant to cater for tourist needs. Generating revenue from tourism has resulted in negative outcomes albeit the expanded growth, especially in Maya Rivera (Juárez, 2002). Moreover, the uneven distribution of benefits from tourism has resulted in the displacement of humans, which is a threat to the local culture.

The Maya region is a tourist route travelled by people from all over the world.  The region is famous for its archaeological sites, ecological features, as well as its cultural heritage. Maya Rivera draws tourist more than any other part of Mexico. However, the government and private investors focus more on the adventure without considering the effect on the local culture. The state government and private businesses have often packaged and marketed the region to attract tourist by commercializing the cultural landscapes (Walker, 2009).  In the process, the significance of the local communities is either ignored or repackaged for tourism development. The archaeological site, colonial towns, and ecological areas are shown on the map, but in reality, these areas are not well preserved (Walker, 2009). Also, many of the towns that played a prominent role in the Mayan postcolonial history are often ignored.

The Mayans have lost control and the ability to define spaces that are important; they have also lost important resources needed for cultural survival. Advertisement on newspapers promises visitors a life-changing experience, which systematically eliminates some of the significant features of the locals. The significance of places amongst Mayas, including their dwells, reminds them of their cultural heritage. Through this culture, the locals have a sense of belonging. However, these landscapes have been transformed to suit others, and significant places have been designed and shaped by tourist. The government and private investors have redesigned the Maya landscape and marketed in different ways that misrepresent the locals. Archaeological sites, colonial towns, and other significant ecological areas have been reduced for mere entertainment (Juárez, 2002).  Consequently, preserved archaeological sites and other larger towns during the colonial and post-colonial period that shaped the Mayan culture are overlooked.

            Although cross-culture interaction through tourism is significant and offer opportunities for increased cultural appreciation, it comes with dangers of misappropriation. The wide variances existing between tourists and the locals have created a different perception that does not reflect the local traditions (Juárez, 2002). Cultural misrepresentation is an issue caused by tourism in the Maya Riviera, and visitors have the impression that the Maya society does not exist because of the collapsed cities that are in ruins. Additionally, tourist agencies deliberately exclude visiting Maya communities as part of the tour; thus tourists perceive the Maya community as extinct (Juárez, 2002). Despite opposition from the locals, lack of local participation in tourism planning has led to aggressive expansion majorly dictated by the government to serve the interest of tourists.

Besides the issue of tourism, the government does not give the local people an opportunity to participate in activities that can directly benefit them. For example, Mundo Maya is known for beautiful landscapes and archaeological sites, colonial town and waterfall, as well as rare birds and unique habitat (Walker, 2009). However, the new planning of the cities, including newly constructed places, does not consider the history and the beauty of the ancient times. Such tourist developments have greatly altered the lives of the locals. This is a new form of colonization where locals serve tourists at the expense of losing their identity. Construction of new resorts and facilities is a selective appropriation of the past culture. Although tourism is a major source of revenue across Mexico, the cultural heritage of the Maya has been commercialized and misrepresented to attract tourists without considering the consequences. The government initiatives, such as Maya Riviera, do not present the vibrant nature of the indigenous population, and this has resulted in the superficial depiction of the local communities.

The lack of effective interpretation is the major reason that the cultural heritage of the Mayans is diminishing. The cultural sites are more of attraction for mere entertainment than educational sites. Although tourism is a crucial source of economic growth, it can have adverse effects if not checked. Many countries use archaeological sites and cultural imagery to promote tourism by incorporating prehistoric heritage, which acts as their national identity. Therefore, tourism can market their national inanity responsibly without focusing on monetary gains from tourism. The current Mexican ancient past is disconnected from the Maya civilization and the contemporary representation of the Maya people (Walker, 2009). The major concern is how tourism has been repacked into a commodity for tourist consumption.

Archaeological sites are important ancient representations of culture and heritage. They form part of the ancient history of the Maya that has been neglected. As such, ignoring significant cultural representation means misinterpreting practices of the local people, which does not give the full history of the site. Effective management of tourism should go beyond monetary benefits to increase respect for local culture. In order to create meaningful interaction between the environments, culture is the key to offering sustainable tourism. Local people can appreciate and protect the local assets while tourists experience a greater understanding and appreciation for places they visit. When tourism is handled well, it can allow people to discover new things about the local heritage and environment and improve the local relation. The locals should benefit not only from revenues, but planning should include a proper representation of their heritage. It all depends on the ways in which these archaeological sites, artefacts, and cultural traditions are presented to the public. Nevertheless, the short-lived gain from tourism affects the long-term economy of the Maya Riviera.


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