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Mexico Sends In Army To Stop Illegal Construction That Threatens Famed Teotihuacán Pyramids

Mexico’s famed Teotihuacán pyramids, which are located just outside the capital, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions. But the site has faced an uncertain future as several major construction projects have encroached on the cultural hotspot and the government has been near powerless to stop them.

In recent weeks, news broke that one developer had destroyed several unexplored historical sites which was a step too far. As a result, the government deployed the National Guard to shutdown construction and seize the site from the developer. But what happens next and will Teotihuacán be better protected in the future?

Mexico deploys National Guard to protect famous Teotihuacán pyramids.

Mexico has sent in 250 National Guard troops and 60 police officers to take control of a plot of land that was allegedly being developed into an ecotourism park alongside the pre-Hispanic ruins of Teotihuacan. Construction crews were destroying unexplored parts of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and putting at risk centuries worth of cultural artifacts.

What was once the largest city in the Americas has long faced encroachment from overzealous developers. And it’s been a major challenge for the government to halt construction works and protect the site. The Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History) (INAH) placed suspension signs on the construction site in March, months after residents noticed the area had been cleared of vegetation and bulldozers had flattened three unexplored archaeological mounds. However, the suspension orders were ignored and construction work continued, the archaeologist Rivero Chong told El País last month.

The delay in stopping the project underlined how Mexico’s unwieldy, antiquated legal system makes it hard to enforce building codes and zoning laws or stop illegal construction, even on protected historical sites.

Teotihuacán was once the largest city in the Americas and still enchants those who visit it.

The former city is located about 30 miles northeast of Mexico City and was once home to more than 100,000 people who mostly lived in stone multi-family apartments compounds, many of which were elaborately decorated with colorful murals. The multi-ethnic city was a contemporary of classic-era Maya urban centers, but known for its own distinctive art and architecture.

A visit to the site today is a must-do for any visitor to the capital city and one that is very popular with tourists. It makes sense why the government would take such extreme measures, like sending in the military, to protect both its cultural heritage and a major tourist destination.

Teotihuacán was declared a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1987, a designation that requires ongoing government protection of the site, noted Rivero Chong.

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