Chichen Itza – why do selfish brats spoil everything?

Y’all miss me around here?  I just got back from visiting Playa del Carmen and other parts thereabout in the Yucatan, so haven’t been able to do much writing or editing.

I went for a wedding, but of course my group did a bunch of site-seeing at the various Mayan ruins in that stretch of Mexico.  And for the first time in ten years we revisited Chichen Itza, once the religious center of the Mayan world in the Yucatan, and one of the most lovingly restored of all the sites.  It has one of the hugest ball courts, a well-excavated cenote, a grisly execution platform covered in stone-carved skulls where the heads of enemies were once displayed on pikes, and a rounded observatory once used to study the night sky for its secrets about time and the planet Venus.

It has a huge pyramid too, the Pyramid of Kukulcan the snake god.  But here’s one thing you won’t see people doing:

They won’t let you go up the pyramid anymore!  Almost everything in the whole place was roped off! 

I’d visited this site in my college days, and this time around was excited to show my girlfriend all the cool stuff I’d seen there before: the spectacular view from the top, the penthouse temple, and inside the pyramid, the excavations of the older pyramid that preceded it, including a preserved anthropomorphic altar and a jaguar statue encrusted with jade.  But apparently due to graffiti people have been leaving inside the pyramid’s temple walls, they have closed the stairways inside and out for good.  I’m sure it didn’t help that a woman fell to her death from the stairway a while back, but our guide said it was primarily the graffiti that caused the closure.  Some dude tagged a temple, and now nobody gets to see it.

I am so pissed off at this nameless stranger or strangers.  What royal fuck would go to an ancient site, venerated by the Mayan people (and yeah, this region is still mostly Mayan ethnically), and write “Z-Krew” over an ancient stucco painting that’s survived a thousand years of tropical humidity?  Graffiti and tagging has arrived at a bad, bad place in our culture, to the point where I really think kids who tag have lost all sense of etiquette and propriety. 

There was a time when taggers spared murals and works of art, and sprayed their larger-than-life pseudonyms on billboards and the sides of subways.  But the early days of tagging, when New York slum kids righteously forced their way back into the debate about who owns the public space, have long since passed–now it’s suburban white kids, rich kids, who think their name deserves to be on everything, and criterion or talent be damned!  The type of kid who can afford to jet to the Yucatan and drink Cabo on the beach has no excuse for destroying the culture of a proud and forgotten people with his own bullshit, stolen attempts at self-expression, but I’m sure that’s who this kid was.  I’d like to see his head of a fucking pike.  What a douchebag.

P.S. Despite this unfortunate setback, we were lucky enough to be there in the afternoon, a couple days before the vernal equinox, when the shadow from one corner of the pyramid forms a diamond-shaped snake’s body along one stairway of the temple as the sun sets.  Photos will be posted here very soon.

2 thoughts on “Chichen Itza – why do selfish brats spoil everything?

  1. i like when they tag “i <3 ?”

    i have respect for people who are able to make beautiful tagging murals, but those little “i was here” tags are pretty annoying.

  2. Yeah, I agree that not all graffiti is vandalism, and not all vandalism is even bad. If someone wants to deface a Pepsi billboard, I can definitely sympathize. And the mural-like tags along the L.A. river’s cement walls definitely add much-needed color and personality to an otherwise dead edifice.

    I know this kind of situational approval of what some people may consider “property damage” leaves open some gray areas, but I think we can all agree that spoiling an ancient monument is wrong. A couple years back, someone tagged the Eagle Rock right near my house–and a formation that took thousands of years to arise was blighted by some douchebag’s need to tell people his name. The line between rebellion and arrogance has been passed by many taggers, to the point where I sometimes wish the whole phenomenon would just stop.

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