The Mexican government said Tuesday that a private construction project was destroying part of the outskirts of the pre-Hispanic ruin site of Teotihuacán, just north of Mexico City.
The culture department said it had issued stop-work orders several times since March, but construction crews ignored them. The department estimated that at least 25 old structures on the site are threatened and filed a criminal complaint against those responsible.
Apparently, the owners of agricultural plots are trying to turn the land into a kind of amusement park. The neighborhood is just outside and across from the site’s famous boulevard and pyramid complex.
The United Nations International Council on Monuments and Sites said bulldozers threatened to raze up to 7 hectares at the site, which is a protected area. The council also said the looting of artifacts had been detected.
“Teotihuacán is an emblematic site declared World Heritage by UNESCO, which represents the highest expression of the identity of the Mexican people,” the UN council said in a statement.
Mexico has long been unable to enforce building codes and zoning laws or stop illegal construction, in part because of the country’s outdated and cumbersome legal system.
The destruction so close to the capital raises questions about Mexico’s ability to protect its ancient heritage sites. Teotihuacan is the most visited archaeological site in the country, with more than 2.6 million visitors per year, and it has hundreds of smaller, more remote and often unexplored sites.
Teotihuacan is best known for its Twin Temples of the Sun and the Moon, but it was actually a large city that housed over 100,000 residents and covered around 20 square kilometers.
The still mysterious city was one of the largest in the world at its peak between 100 BC and 750 AD. But it was abandoned before the rise of the Aztecs in the 14th century.
Even his real name remains unclear. Its current name was given to it by the Aztecs.
But the Aztecs may in fact have called the city “Teohuacan” – literally “the city of the sun” – rather than Teotihuacan, which means “city of the gods” or “place where men become gods”.
The pyramids of the sun or the moon attracted tens of thousands of visitors each year for the spring and fall equinoxes, before the coronavirus pandemic struck.