An illegal building threatens the ancient sites of Teotihuacan in Mexico Environment News


The owner of the property who operates with “total impunity” in the area where construction is prohibited, says the head of the area.

Just beyond the imposing pyramids of the largest ancient city in the Americas, an illegal building project threatens to cause irreparable damage to the remains of temples and about two dozen other ancient structures.

The owner of the land, where construction is strictly prohibited, has ignored legal orders from Mexico’s INAH Institute of Antiquities to stop building for the past two months, sparking outrage that authorities are not protecting the ruins of Teotihuacan. one of the main tourist attractions of Mexico.

Reuters was unable to locate or interrogate the owner, whose name has not been revealed.

Rogelio Rivero Chong, director of the Teotihuacan Archaeological Area, said in an interview that the lack of police intervention showed the owner’s “total impunity.”

The ancient ruins of Teotihuacan are the remains of a powerful and influential metropolis established as early as 400 BC. [File: Henry Romero/Reuters]

In late April, INAH filed a criminal lawsuit against the owner before federal prosecutors alleging “damage to the archaeological heritage.” This week the institute documented the continued heavy construction of about 60 local workers, according to statements from Mexico’s ministry of culture.

The prosecution where the complaint was filed did not answer Reuters’ questions about the status of the complaint.

Teotihuacan, about 50 kilometers northeast of Mexico City, had a population of at least 100,000 people who lived mostly in stone multifamily apartment complexes, many of which were elaborately decorated with colorful murals.

The multiethnic city was contemporary with the Mayan urban centers of the classical period, but known for its own art and architecture. It was enriched from 100 BC to 550 AD, thanks to extensive trade networks and a thriving craft-based economy that produced goods such as pottery, clothing, and especially sharp obsidian leaves.

Rivero Chong said authorities have struggled for years to stop illegal construction, often carried out at night or on weekends. Local government investigators often arrive too late to verify the damage, he said.

The ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan are just one part of the great metropolis of San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico. Much of the historic city is still being excavated [ File: Toya Sarno Jordan/Reuters]

A high wall of ash blocks surrounds the illegal construction, located on two plots in an area known as Oztoyahualco which is believed to be one of the oldest districts in the ancient city.

A past archaeological survey indicates that there was a ceremonial complex with at least three temples and about 25 separate structures.

Teotihuacan was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1987, a designation that requires continued protection of the site by the government, Rivero Chong noted.

Several prominent academics have also called on the government to take action in recent days.

“For me, this really hurts,” said Linda Manzanilla, a veteran Teotihuacan archaeologist at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, referring to the latest illegal construction.

During one of his excavations in Teotihuacan in the 1980s, he unearthed a residential complex in Oztoyahualco where stucco workers once lived, next to a major obsidian workshop, not far from the three currently threatened temples.

He said the latest illegal construction is in an area just west of the Moon’s pyramid, where other nearby excavations have revealed elaborately decorated structures built around squares in a densely developed part of the former metropolis. .

“It’s very likely that there are very large complexes there,” he said.

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