Archaeologist Richard Hansen has spent four decades with a group of 40 plus archaeologists and specialists in El Mirador, a pre-columbian Mayan settlement in Guatemala, in order to preserve the cultural importance of the Mayan empire and keep it from disappearing. In order to understand the wealth of this empire, one must understand the reach they had over the regions spread around Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. Richard Hansen’s research is a positive way of exploring the history of Maya civilization. His research brings light to history that people all around the world can pay attention to. Hansen has suggested a proposal for controlled tourism, which is an intelligent idea to help the surrounding community. However, the authority to decide whether to implement this dynamic into the environment should ultimately fall on the indigenous people who live there. They are the rightful owners of the land and as it is their home, the decision should be theirs.
These archaeologists aimed to test the theory that this settlement was “the cradle of Maya civilization.” Hansen believes that wastefulness and despoilment sped the collapse of the vast city-states likely controlled by El Mirador. Hansen thinks that there is a message contained in this history that highlights a possible catastrophe and believes that people should learn from what happened in El Mirador to prevent modern humanity from making the same mistakes: abusing natural resources and ultimately contributing to humanity’s own disappearance.
Hansen’s work has led to some struggles surrounding the ability to keep the environment intact around the site and the communities that are fueled by the resources of the jungle. Hansen himself does not agree that his goals and work ruin the biosphere and suggests that “controlled, restricted economic tourism” is a superior alternative.
The concept of tourism contains both positives and negatives. On one side, tourism allows the beauty of different kinds of places to be shared with different people around the world. The dark side of tourism takes away from the authenticity of the places that are being toured. The culture and significance becomes commercialized and the true message and impact becomes minimized. El Mirador is a place that must be handled delicately when it comes to tourism.
Although it may seem that suggesting tourism at all is just a way to make more money, it is more likely that it is a viable option to deter real threats such as poaching, logging, oil drilling and other ways in which the biosphere is being put in harm’s way. Controlled tourism is a great way to establish balance between people and the land, something that should be considered by indigenous communities.