Mexico’s world-famous Teotihuacan pyramids reopen to public

Mexico’s pre-Hispanic ruin sites have begun re-opening to tourists

Mexico’s world-famous Teotihuacan pyramids reopen to public
Teotihuacan had to close in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 11/09/2020 14:28 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Emilio Fernández & Antonio Díaz/EL UNIVERSAL & Diego Delgado/AP Actualizada 14:28

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Mexico’s pre-Hispanic ruin sites have begun re-opening to tourists for the first time since they were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The ancient sites had not seemed so lonely since they were abandoned centuries ago. The few hundred visitors who will be allowed into most sites must line up for limited tickets, get their temperatures checked, wear face masks, get a dose of hand sanitizer, and stay 1.5 meters from each other. Admission will be limited to just 30% of the sites’ capacities.

Mayan ruins like Tulum and Cobá will reopen Monday; Chichén Itzá will apparently reopen later.

At the country’s most-visited archaeological site, the pyramids of Teotihuacan just north of Mexico City, cash-strapped trinket vendors returned but there were few visitors Thursday. Visitors are limited to 3,000 per day and are not allowed to climb up the Pyramids of the Sun or Moon, which used to draw tens of thousands of visitors for the Spring and Fall equinoxes each year. Moreover, the site will be open from 9:00 to 15:00.

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Omar Gonzaláz visited Teotihuacan with his wife and three children on the first day it opened, saying they had been looking forward to the trip since last year.

“We had this trip planned since last year,” González said. “We had the package and everything else, but unfortunately due to the contingency we had to postpone it until now.”

Teotihuacan was perhaps the most important and influential city in the region during its apex between 100 B.C. and A.D. 750 when it had about 100,000 residents. The city was abandoned long before the rise of the Aztecs in the 14th century.
 

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Ramón Álvarez Negrete set up his handicrafts for sale at a spot along the Causeway of the Dead, a broad stone-paved boulevard that runs between the pyramids. Álvarez Negrete said it had been a hard five months with the site closed.

“Income, well, we had no income, because we are just working at home,” he said. ”The little that we had saved, a peso saved, we had to spend because the family needs to eat.”

The staggered opening times for archaeological sites across the country have proved confusing for some visitors. There is no single day for reopening, which is in part dependent on making sure adequate preparations are in place and pandemic conditions in each part of the country.

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Spanish tourist Mateo Garrosh made it to Teotihuacan Thursday after a little research.

“I looked up on the internet what places are open, the most emblematic places in this zone, and I found out that they open today,” he said. ”But it wasn’t all that easy, because each place opens a different day.”

Mexico is desperate to reopen its tourism industry, and archaeological sites are a key part of the country’s attractions. Tourism provides 11 million jobs, directly or indirectly in Mexico, and many of those workers simply went home to wait it out after people stopped traveling during the pandemic.

Agustín Robles returned to selling carved masks and obsidian figures near the Pyramid of the Sun for the first time in months Thursday.

“It has been very tough, to be honest. We received no support by the government be it state government, municipal or federal,” Robles said.

The first visitors to enter into the recently reopened Teotihuacan were five members of a family from Mazatlán, Sinaloa. “We have postponed this trip since April for my daughter’s birthday and we finally were able to do it; unluckily, due to the pandemic, it could be on the date we wanted, but we’re already here.

“It’s exciting to see this view, a gift from Teotihuacan; it’s the first time we come,” said the father.
 

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The doors of the second most-visited archeological site in the world opened at 9:00. The site was last open to visitors on March 19.

Elements from the National Guard, the State of Mexico Security Ministry, as well as that of Teotihuacan and San Martín de las Pirámides, and staff from the National Institute of Anthropology and History are carrying out an operation in the area to ask visitors to follow the new health protocol.

Rogelio Rivera Chong, director of the Teotihuacan Archeological Site, informed Thursday morning that nearly 600 national and international visitors had come to the site on the first hours of its reopening.

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Prior to the pandemic, the site received over 6,000 visitors on weekends. However, with the new health regulations, the site will only be able to admit a maximum of 3,000 visitors.

Authorities expect a rise in visitors on the weekend, especially on Sunday when the entrance is free.

Visitors must consider that, just as the pyramids, the Museum of Teotihuacan Painting and the Museum of Teotihuacan Culture will remain closed to the public.

Rogelio Rivera said that the pyramids will likely remain closed until Mexico’s four-color epidemiological system marks green, although there is a possibility for this measure to be extended for they are expecting to perform a major maintenance project.
 

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Rivero said the reopening took place “with a bit of uncertainty over what could happen, but we’re working in a safe return.”

Ricardo Sheffield, the head of Mexico’s Office of the Federal Prosecutor for the Consumer (PROFECO), said he hopes many visitors would go to the site “because if any sector needs the support of all Mexicans, that is tourism, which is going to be hard to reactivate.”

Sheffield’s opinion was shared by vendors at the site. Most vendors hope the flow of visitors will normalize so that the same happens with their sales.
 

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As the site reopened, vendors were also allowed to sell their handicrafts. “Six months later, it was reopened and we actually had a bad time because we had no income, we were selling on avenues, but no one bought; we’re grateful for the reopening and we hope things get better,” said María García.

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