A menagerie of tourists
wandering herds of pampered human flesh
bright white sneakers, tomato-red faces, tank tops with sunburnt arms dangling
scrawny brown vendors en masse
hogging shady trees,
waving shiny trinkets, “Juan Dolla!”
weary, burnt-out guides
in mirrored sunglasses, white guayaberas washed to the point of transparency
“now look over here, my friends” ad nauseum
wrinkled wizened face
the ancient tiny Mayan lady’s sad eyes
“hankie 10 pesos” her only English
crowded bathrooms and overpriced ice cream shops
tourists in heat-exhausted stupors, indifferent employees
“hat my friend, hat my friend”
brown woman ignored by the pale masses
climbing the stairs to their overheated destiny
flocks of silver buses
motors racing, air conditioners on high
parked, waiting for their victims to return, the driver snoring in his undershirt
Wonder of the World
Chichen Itza Disney-fied
and cash cow to the government
Rising is dangerous. Really? Physically rising? Socially aspirational rising?
If you visit Uxmal on a regular basis, showing off this wonderful site to visitors and friends, you may perhaps have a few questions as I do. Criticizing is of course, bad and we wouldn’t want to affect anyone’s self-esteem or God forbid offend anyone, so let’s just ask some hypothetical “what if” questions:
- What if: When you arrived at Uxmal there was a welcoming smile at the ticket booth and not the burned out, Mr. Grumpy that currently received visitors who wait patiently in line?
- What if: The federal and state authorities were to make a leap of faith, move into the 21st century and trust modern computer and accounting software to divide the entry fee so that visitors could pay one ticket and not lineup for two separate tickets, sold side by side by two employees at two separate desks with two separate cash floats and to be punched by two separate employees at two separate ticket-punching stations? This archaic system works well for the government agencies involved, but is the purpose of Uxmal to benefit the government agencies and their accounting or is it to delight the visitor?
- What if: You could buy the ticket to enter Uxmal in less than 2 minutes? If there more than 4 people waiting, you can easily spend 10 minutes in the two lineups to get your two tickets from the two employees in the two windows.
- What if: If you did have to wait, you could do so in the shade? If larger groups are in line to buy their tickets, you will stand in the baking April sun thinking “is it really worth it?” while you feel trickles of sweat running down the small of your back. The employees are in the shade and so good for them. What about the visitors? Could they not at least have a canopy of some sort to stop them from literally burning? Would this not make their experience better?
- What if: You could choose the best guide and not the one whose turn it is? Some guides are better than others, some speak English better than others and some are better with children. But you can’t choose because there is a system in place that makes you take the next guide in line. Great for the guides – and I love them all – but is the visit to Uxmal about the guides having a fair distribution of clients, or is it about the visitor’s experience?
- What if: They actually hired someone who spoke English to translate the signs warning people of the dangers in climbing the ruins and respecting the structures? Signs like “not sit” and “rising is dangerous” are toe-curling embarrassments to those of us who live here and take away from the magnificence of Uxmal. Hiring someone’s cousin who speaks no English to translate the signs obviously benefited someone – wink, wink – but how does this impact the visitor’s experience?
What if the powers that be considered the visitors experience when they arrive in the Yucatan instead of spending millions of pesos on snazzy brochures and costly junkets to tourism fairs to promote the states attractions? Doesn’t magnificent Uxmal and all its grandeur deserve more than just to act as a cash cow for inefficient bureaucracies interested only in self-preservation? Ask yourself these “what if” questions on your next visit to Uxmal and think about how much better it could be. Is this the hospitality we want to show our guests when they arrive in the Yucatan? Yucatecans are famous for their hospitality. Is this really as good as we can be?