Mexico Pleased about Designation of Mayan Temple City as One of Seven Wonders of the World

SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, July 18, 2007 | Go to article overview

Mexico Pleased about Designation of Mayan Temple City as One of Seven Wonders of the World


Mexicans are beaming about the recent designation of the Chichen Itza Mayan temple city as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World in July, but the reaction is mixed on the impact that an expected surge in visitors will have on the fragile site. The site, in central Yucatan state, includes the seven-story Kukulkan pyramid, the Temple of Chac Mool, the Hall of the Thousand Pillars, and the Playing Field of the Prisoners. Chichen Itza was one of three sites in Latin America selected by 100,000 voters in a controversial poll conducted on the Internet. The campaign, sponsored by Swiss adventurer and filmmaker Bernard Weber through his New7Wonders foundation, also resulted in the selection of the statue of Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the Machu Picchu Inca ruins in Peru.

In addition to the Latin American sites, voters selected the Great Wall of China, Jordan's Petra temple, the Colosseum in Rome, and India's Taj Mahal. The Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, one of the original wonders of the world selected by Greek observers 2,200 years ago, kept its status. The other six--the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria--were destroyed by earthquakes, fires, or other causes.

Winners selected via Internet vote

Weber's campaign caused a good deal of controversy because several worthy sites did not make the final cut, including Easter Island off the coast of Chile, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Alhambra palace in southern Spain, Stonehenge in Britain, the Hagia Sophia in Turkey, the Acropolis in Greece, and the ancient city of Timbuktu in the west African country of Mali.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which has developed its own list of World Heritage sites, declined to endorse Weber's campaign.

UNESCO designated Chichen Itza as a World Heritage site in 1988.

"Acknowledging the sentimental or emblematic value of sites and inscribing them on a new list is not enough," UNESCO said in a statement after the seven new sites were announced. "Scientific criteria must be defined, the quality of candidates evaluated, and legislative and management frameworks set up. The relevant authorities must also demonstrate commitment to these frameworks as well as to permanently monitoring the state of conservation of sites."

The New7Wonders foundation's designation of Chichen Itza as one of the seven new wonders of the world comes almost a year after UNESCO designated Mexico's agave-growing region, primarily in Jalisco state, as a World Heritage site. In addition, UNESCO has designated several other locations in Mexico as having environmental or cultural importance (see SourceMex, 2006-07-19).

There was also strong criticism about lack of controls on the voting process and its accessibility only to people who are able to log onto the Internet. For example, some detractors noted that the Great Wall of China made the final cut, after falling out of the top seven in May, only because of an extensive campaign by a nonprofit organization among Chinese Internet and mobile-phone users.

"Potential for electronic voting is huge in China, which boasts the world's second largest number of Internet users after the US and the world's largest mobile phone market by the number of subscribers," said Forbes magazine.

There were similar campaigns in Peru, Jordan, and Mexico. "In the fabled Incan capital of Cuzco, Peru, Internet cafes reportedly had been full for weeks with supporters clicking their votes for the nearby majestic ruins of Machu Picchu," said the Los Angeles Times.

Yucatan governor-elect led Mexican campaign

Ivonne Ortega, governor-elect of Yucatan, led the Mexican campaign. Some experts likened Ortega's efforts on behalf of Chichen-Itza to her gubernatorial campaign, in which she upset the favored candidate of the governing Partido Accion Nacional (PAN), Xavier Abreu (see SourceMex, 2007-05-23). …

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