Two months back I announced the opening of Puerto Chiapas as the new Western Caribbean port opened to access the Maya site of Palenque. My facts were wrong: Puerto Chiapas is in fact on the Pacific Coast of Mexico however it does offer access to Palenque. PLease note correction. (Thank you Ana Smith!)
Archive for July, 2007
The former British Colony of Belize has long been a favorite with adventure travelers, divers and those wishing to get away from it all to a place that is close to the United States, seemingly remote, with English as the official spoken language. Situated in the Western Caribbean, Belize is perfectly positioned to benefit from cruise traffic. However, with the second longest barrier reef in the world off its coast, cruising to Belize has always been problematic.
In the past ships have been required to anchor well off-shore to avoid the fragile reef. To benefit from the visitations, government officials required cruise lines to use local tenders rather than those of the ship. The long tender ride from the anchorage combined with cost of the local service made a call to Belize a pricey one. And, admittedly, those not on one of the many planned excursions to the Maya ruins, birding, snorkeling, etc. were often disappointed left solely with walk around Belize City.
To remedy that, not one but two cruise terminals are being built in the southern part of the country. This location will allow deep water access by large ships avoiding problems with the reef, but will also by-pass Belize City where the majority of the country’s population is located. The terminals will allow passengers to enjoy the natural beauty of the country - the beaches, rainforest, and ruins - but is questionable how it will benefit the people. The proposed terminals have also raised eyebrows among environmentalists who are concerned about the health of the reef in light of the increased ship traffic.
The III International Copan Congress, June 13
- 17, held at the municipal building of the
town of Copan Ruinas was more than just an
archaeological meeting. Over two hundred
delegates from around the world attended the
three day conference, that highlighted not
only updates within the site of Copan and the
Maya world but also the town of Copan Ruinas
as a travel destination.
Some of the world’s most noted Mayanists presented fascinating papers on the topic of “Art and Power.” In a society where art was state sponsored or at least¬ commissioned by people of rank and power, the premise was used to discuss everything from dynastic genealogy to architecture.¬ However, one need not be an archaeologist to enjoy the conference. There was a culinary event showcasing indigenous cuisine and a dramatic reenactment of the Maya ball game. Were I to attend next year I would not hesitate to take a non-Maya-franatic friend.
What was most surprising to me was how much
the town of Copan Ruinas has changed. I
manage to visit once a year - but on a day trip
from the ship I never have to time to see
much. Nestled in a mountain valley at 2,000
feet above sea level, the town has become a charming secret refuge for
ex-patriots from Holland to Australia. Old
World meets New World as hoteliers from
Europe flock to this idyllic location
bringing with them fine dining and elegant accommodations. As one of the
prominent sponsors of the conference the
Honduran Tourism Board lavished guests with
sumptuous meals and entertainment using the
gathering to outline its goals for expanded
infrastructure in the town including a new
As more and more people discover the town, change is invariable. Though¬ that bodes well for the community and business owners, many are concerned that rapid growth and development will encroach upon portions of the o be excavated archaeological park. There is even talk of asking for¬ Copan’s designation as as a UNESCO Patrimonial Center to be lifted so that developers can buy up more land. In a country like Honduras that is still struggling after many of its cash crops economies were destroyed after Hurricane Mitch, it is tempting to say “yes” to the big developers. Hopefully, the international community appreciates the true value of the valley - the magnificent site of Copan - and its hidden treasures will be allowed to patiently wait for proper scientific excavation.