Monumental Ambivalence

Monumental Ambivalence

LISA C. BREGLIA
Copyright Date: 2006
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/714274
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  • Book Info
    Monumental Ambivalence
    Book Description:

    From ancient Maya cities in Mexico and Central America to the Taj Mahal in India, cultural heritage sites around the world are being drawn into the wave of privatization that has already swept through such economic sectors as telecommunications, transportation, and utilities. As nation-states decide they can no longer afford to maintain cultural properties-or find it economically advantageous not to do so in the globalizing economy-private actors are stepping in to excavate, conserve, interpret, and represent archaeological and historical sites. But what are the ramifications when a multinational corporation, or even an indigenous village, owns a piece of national patrimony which holds cultural and perhaps sacred meaning for all the country's people, as well as for visitors from the rest of the world?

    In this ambitious book, Lisa Breglia investigates "heritage" as an arena in which a variety of private and public actors compete for the right to benefit, economically and otherwise, from controlling cultural patrimony. She presents ethnographic case studies of two archaeological sites in the Yucatán Peninsula-Chichén Itzá and Chunchucmil and their surrounding modern communities-to demonstrate how indigenous landholders, foreign archaeologists, and the Mexican state use heritage properties to position themselves as legitimate "heirs" and beneficiaries of Mexican national patrimony. Breglia's research masterfully describes the "monumental ambivalence" that results when local residents, excavation laborers, site managers, and state agencies all enact their claims to cultural patrimony. Her findings make it clear that informal and partial privatizations-which go on quietly and continually-are as real a threat to a nation's heritage as the prospect of fast-food restaurants and shopping centers in the ruins of a sacred site.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79558-7
    Subjects: Archaeology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. PART I The Ambivalence of Heritage
    • [Part I Introduction]
      (pp. 1-3)

      “That which is everybody’s is nobody’s,” according to a Spanish aphorism, and nowhere are rights of ownership over the public domain more hotly contested than in the increasingly fraught debates over the preservation and privatization of cultural and artistic heritage around the globe. Far from being an issue exclusive to natural resources (such as water or energy) or social programs (including education and pensions), the deregulation and divestiture of state-owned enterprises has now reached the realm of culture. Shrinking state coffers have left even some of the most privileged houses of cultural and artistic treasures in precarious financial conditions. More...

    • Chapter 1 A NEW APPROACH TO HERITAGE
      (pp. 5-28)

      April 28, 1999: Mauricio Fernández Garza, senator from the conservative National Action Party (PAN), presents to the Mexican Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs a proposal to amend Section XXV of Article 73 of the Mexican Constitution.¹ This article guarantees federal jurisdiction over “all matters concerning archeological, artistic, and historic monuments, the conservation of which is of national interest.” No matter that the actual proposal cleverly stepped around the notion of outright divestiture of state-held and regulated cultural properties by encouraging nongovernmental participation in the work of preservation and promotion (Fernández Garza 1999), the senator’s initiative immediately became known in opposition...

    • Chapter 2 CARTOGRAPHIES OF PATRIMONY
      (pp. 29-56)

      In January 2003 Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR) announced plans to create La Cartografía de Recursos Culturales (the Cartography of Cultural Resources), designed to locate and identify the tangible and intangible cultural resources upon the map of Mexican national territory. According to its promoters, the project was designed to create a foundation of information for touristic development, handicraft production, and cultural industries in Mexico. Originally presented in the proceedings of the Indigenous International Tourism Forum in the city of Oaxaca in March 2002, the project represents the participation of several agencies: the Office of Cultural Heritage and Tourism of the...

  6. PART II “Maya Archaeology as the Mayas See It”
    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 57-64)

      A question that haunts the first decades of archaeological and ethnological investigations in the Maya area is that of the relationship of the contemporary Maya people found living in Yucatán, highland Chiapas, Guatemala, Belize—the Modern Maya—to the Ancient Maya, those who built the great ceremonial centers of Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Palenque, Mayapán, the ruins that cover the landscape of this region. Some of the most visceral representations of this relationship can be found in textual productions of the 1920s and 1930s, not coincidentally coming at the same time as the first systematic and sustained archaeological excavations at Chichén...

    • Chapter 3 CHICHÉN ITZÁ: A CENTURY OF PRIVATIZATION
      (pp. 65-95)

      As a premier site of Maya, Mexican, and even World Heritage, Chichén Itzá is one of those places that most of us would like to think of as both “everybody’s and nobody’s.” Yet this site stands as a most compelling monument to the ambivalence of common heritage, national patrimony, and public good. You see, Chichén Itzá has been privately owned for the entirety of its modern history. Perhaps this fact is of little significance to the thousands of visitors who stream through its famous ruins on any given day. In other words, is it possible that the private ownership of...

    • Chapter 4 BY BLOOD OR BY SWEAT: SHAPING RIGHTS TO WORLD HERITAGE
      (pp. 97-134)

      Given the long and complicated history of private-sector intervention within the archaeological zone at Chichén Itzá, how could the privatization signaled by the 1999 constitutional amendment initiative present a new threat to the ownership and custodianship of these monuments to ancient Maya civilization and the Mexican nation? Some time after watching the protestors at Chichén Itzá in 1999 I understood what they were really protesting. While public concern centered on the integrity of the nation’s tangible cultural patrimony, local INAH site guards and custodios at Chichén Itzá trained their anxious attention in another direction: toward the intangible institutional structure of...

    • Chapter 5 CHUNCHUCMIL: AMBIVALENCE IN A HERITAGE LANDSCAPE
      (pp. 135-171)

      One weeknight just after dark, I attended a slide show of archaeological wonders presented by the INAH-Yucatán’s head of security in Kochol. I, along with thirty or so women and children, watched the scuffed, uneven wall on the side of the darkenedmolino(corn mill) light up with images of Chichén Itzá, one after another. The occasion for the slide show was an invitation extended by archaeologists of the Pakbeh Archaeological Project to the INAH representative in an effort to educate the community about Maya cultural patrimony. The Pakbeh Project, originally known as the Chunchucmil Regional Economy Project (CREP), a...

    • Chapter 6 ARCHAEOLOGY, EJIDOS, AND SPACE-CLAIMING TECHNIQUES
      (pp. 173-206)

      The archaeological zone of Chunchucmil in northwestern Yucatán is situated in a landscape replete with ruins. From the roadway between the Maya communities of Kochol and Chunchucmil, even the casual observer may note up to a dozen mounds, some eighteen to twenty meters high. In the dry season, the mounds are more noticeable as crumbling yet imposing structures of cut stone. This is in part what attracted archaeologists to the area in 1993 to begin surveying and mapping the sixteen-square-kilometer site just inland from the Gulf of Mexico. Through examination of settlement, subsistence, and household patterns, archaeologists of the Pakbeh...

  7. Conclusion DOCILE DESCENDANTS AND ILLEGITIMATE HEIRS: THE AMBIVALENCE OF INHERITANCE
    (pp. 207-212)

    Who are the proper heirs to Maya cultural patrimony? Through the course of this study I have suggested several possibilities. Under the notion “that which is everybody’s is nobody’s,” all and none of us inherit Maya, Mexican, and World Heritage. As tourists, scholars, or any other workaday citizens, perhaps we are content to let this ambivalence go unexamined. But what about those people who live within the landscape of ruins in Yucatán? What about those who must negotiate this curious and perplexing ambivalence of the ownership of cultural patrimony in order to go about their everyday business? Maya communities such...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 213-224)
  9. REFERENCES
    (pp. 225-236)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 237-242)