Hundreds of Mexican National Guard and police have raided and seized an apparently illegal building project that caused “irreparable damage” to protected areas near the country’s historic Teotihuacán ruins.
The raid was carried out by 250 National Guard and 60 police officers, as well as “experts specialised in the matter for the case,” as Mexico’s Ministry of Culture and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) explained in a statement released yesterday.
Authorities successfully secured the property, where “unauthorised works’’ were being carried out in Oztoyahualco, Teotihuacán. This site is of archaeological significance as the Teotihuacán settlement is believed to have sprung from this spot.
The threatened area is situated on the outskirts of Teotihuacán — a pre-Hispanic city that hosted as many as 100,000 inhabitants from 1 CE to 500 CE. The UNESCO site receives around 2.6 million visitors each year, making it Mexico’s top archaeological destination for tourists. The site is famous for its picturesque boulevard and pyramid complex.
Back in April, the INAH filed a complaint against the illegal construction project, which aims to build an amusement park on the outskirts of this land, Mexico News Daily reports. Upwards of 25 unexplored ancient structures in the Oztoyahualco area were threatened by the works, as we reported last week. The Associated Press says upwards of 15 acres of protected land were at risk of being razed by bulldozers.
Construction at the site began in March, but the builders repeatedly ignored requests to stop. The Mexican government seemed either unwilling or unable to stop the project, a likely consequence of the country’s antiquated legal system, which makes it difficult to “enforce building codes and zoning laws or stop illegal construction, even on protected historical sites,” according to the AP.
In its statement from yesterday, the INAH said it “strongly condemns the destruction” that occurred within the protected sections of the site. The construction was carried out “without the authorization of the institute,” and it caused “irreparable damage to the archaeological heritage of Mexico,” the INAH stated.
Once secured by the Mexican troops and police, it was handed over to the Municipal Police of Teotihuacan, which was done at the request of the Attorney General’s Office. With the site secure, the stage is now set for a criminal investigation and possible criminal charges. The Ministry of Culture and INAH “recognise these actions as a sign of the willingness and prompt response that the authorities of the different levels of government: federal, state and municipal, have undertaken to enforce the law,” the INAH stated.
This response, though strong-armed and late, is welcome news. As Mexico News Daily reported, concerns had been raised that, with further damage to the area, Teotihuacán might lose its World Heritage status. Moreover, this action likely served to protect future archaeological discoveries. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen, as showcased by a regrettable 2020 incident in Australia.