Guatemalan Mayan Ruins Might Become a Private Tourist Attraction Paid for By the U.S.
The area is already protected by a local program, though, so why is this American archaeologist getting involved?
The forest of El Mirador, Guatemala hides the ruins of a 2,000-year-old Mayan city, which could soon become a tourist attraction paid for by the United States. That might not sound like a bad thing, but as Vice News reports, it's not necessarily what people who live there want.
Dr. Richard Hansen, an American archeologist, has for 20 years been trying to build a private park in the area that would include hotels, restaurants, and a miniature train to transport tourists throughout the jungle. He claims the park would protect the ruins and surrounding forest, which is part of a UNESCO-designated site called the Maya Biosphere Reserve, but locals question his motives.
The reserve already has a conservation model in place that allows nearby communities to live off the forest in return for protecting it from loggers and drug traffickers. That program has support from the U.S. Department of the Interior, USAID, and former Guatemalan governments, and has decreased deforestation rates in the area. If Hansen really wants to protect the area, then what's wrong with the program that's already working?
Despite the controversy, Hansen might get his way — Guatemala's new president, Alejandro Giammattei, has expressed interest in his plan, and so have Guatemalan congressmen. He has also secured support from four American senators for a bill that would provide $60 million in U.S. taxpayer funds for the proposed park.