In Guatemala, the oligarchs profit from the Maya civilisation

So titled is an interesting article by Grégory Lassalle on Le Monde Diplomatique’s Spanish website. The article uses the exhibition of Maya artefacts currently showing at the museum of Quai Branly, in Paris, to highlight the fact that oligarch businesses are using the tourism potential of ancient Maya civilisations as a profitable venture for themselves. Of course, this same oligarch class would have been quite happy for the descendants of the ancient Maya to have disappeared altogether. Marta Casaús Arzú, in her book Guatemala: Linaje y Racismo, noted the regret amongst some of them that the Maya were allowed to survive. These oligarchs through their corporate business interests and friends, wanted to promote a good image of the private sector through an organisation called Pacunam whose members, it is estimated, control 80% of the GDP of Guatemala. The exhibition is supported by the French company Perenco who are themselves maintaining a near monopoly on oil exploration in Petén. Petén is the centre of a, potentially very profitable project, to develop tourism at the high luxury end. This includes, for example, catering for tourists to pay in the US and fly direct from Cancun to the ancient sites and without having to spend any money in Guatemala.

Local communities are against their environment being turned solely into folk culture landscape. After all, these are real people whom those oligarchs have treated with, at best, disdain down through the years. From an archaeological perspective the Maya are seen as a source of profit but from a cultural living perspective, they are not seen at all. However, they are real people with real lives.

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Categories: Indigenous peoples, Justice

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