22 | ENE | 2020
In Taxco, the Church of St Prisca remains closed while workers restore a temple wall – File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

Magic towns, crippled after earthquakes

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Following recent events, these towns register a decrease of up to 80% in visitors. Authorities encourage tourism to reactivate their economy

The earthquakes of last September 7 and 19, in addition to human losses, have caused the partial or full closure of tourist attractions in the so-called "Magic Towns" in Mexico – whose economies depend on visitors.

These towns have seen a decrease in foreign and national tourism – in some cases up to 80% – which is affecting the economy of its inhabitants, who live on trade, crafts, and the tourism industry. Thus, several authorities – including Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto – are urging people to visit these communities, in order to reactivate their economy.

“Let's promote tourism, because the best way to help these places is by visiting them; they have been affected, but they are capable of receiving visitors,” said Peña Nieto during his visit to the magical village of Tlayacapan on September 26.

The Magic Town of San Pedro Cholula receives over 600 thousand visitors per year, yet it is currently at risk of losing a considerable number of tourists given its most famous attractions are religious temples – most of them damaged after the September 19 earthquake.

“Religious tourism is vital for the city of Cholula,” said the Mayor of the Magic Town, José Juan Espinosa, who has asked Cholula citizens to improve their touristic services and collaborate in the reconstruction efforts of temples to help preserve the image of their town.

Mitla, one of the five Magic Towns of the southern state of Oaxaca (the others being Capulálpam de Méndez, Huautla de Jiménez, Mazunte, San Pedro, and San Pablo Teposcolula), has been particularly hit by the lack of visitors.

In 2016, the community received over 120 thousand tourists, and the number increased this year after the Guelaguetza and the Holy Week, but everything changed during this last month.

“Recent events have impacted without a doubt the flow of tourists. Domestic news says there's been a huge devastation in Oaxaca; however, people believe this applies to the entire state and they avoid traveling here altogether,” stated the Municipal president of the town, Abelardo Ruíz Acevedo.

Due to the structural damages in several buildings of the two Magic Towns of Tepoztlán and Tlayacapan, both villages have a diminished capacity to receive tourists, yet this has affected thousands of merchants and people in the tourism industry.

In Tepoztlán, the most famous attraction is the Tepozteco Mountain, yet the National Institute of Anthropólogy & History (INAH) has closed the access to the mountain as a safety measure.

In Tlayacapan, five people perished during the earthquake and 17 out of the 34 temples have been damaged. The most representative one is the Convent of Saint John Baptist, which is currently closed for safety reasons. The Municipal Palace has reported damages in 80% of its structure.

Comitán, Palenque, Chiapa de Corzo and San Cristobal de las Casas are the four Magic Towns in this southern state.

From among these four, the last two were the towns most affected by the 8.2 quake on September 7.

The Sumidero Canyon in Chiapa de Corzo and the religious temples are the main attractions, yet according to local reporter Alberto Vargas, visitors have decreased considerably.

In San Cristóbal de las Casas, one of the favorite destinations of foreign and domestic tourism, the earthquake caused damages to the Cathedral and several other religious temples, according to Aldo Quintero, director of Tourism and Creative City Department, affiliated to UNESCO. Mr. Quintero acknowledges the earthquake on September 7 impacted the perception of tourists, seeing that during the national holidays of September 16, there was a marked decrease in visitors when compared to last year's numbers.

Taxco, the only Magic Town in Guerrero, is mainly visited by the inhabitants of Puebla, Morelos, the State of Mexico and Mexico City. The national park of the Caves of Cacahuamilpa, in the north of the state, is currently closed by orders of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas while experts assess the security of the location.

With information from Édgar Ávila, Justino Miranda, Christian Jiménez, Fredy Martín, & Arturo de Dios Palma


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