chapter  7
10 Pages

Indigenous perspectives on ownership and management of Yucatecan archaelogical sites


I specifically focus on how Chichen Itza serves as a default site for understanding how power relations are manifested and negotiated in the nearby archaeological community of Coba. This town has seen an increase in tourism over the past few decades, and local employees now depend on this industry as part of their economic livelihood. Although Coba differs from Chichen Itza in terms of historical timeframe and cultural influences, the latter tends to overshadow these distinctions by remaining one of the most prominent symbols of the ancient Maya past. Here I examine how the international notoriety of this site brings forth issues of ideological, monetary, and spatial control among differing parties in Coba. Rather than view external notions of ownership and management in opposition to local political economy, I examine how the Maya utilize these tensions as a way of constructing a multifaceted sense of identity in their daily lives. I begin with a theoretical introduction to tourism as a means of understanding how each element of control fits in with the broader issues of local/global relations that arise from the tourist industry. I then examine individual issues of ideological, monetary, and spatial power, linking case studies in both locations with ethnographic research to demonstrate how Coba employees reconcile these tensions for their benefit. I conclude by proposing avenues of sustainable tourism that address the needs of local community members while taking into account the expectations of government policy, private businesses, and tourists for future development.