It's an important Mayan site, bordering Belize and Guatemala, but, sadly,
every time we hear about El Pilar, the news is about some kind of illegal activity
in the border area, usually violent armed assaults of nearby residents or tourists
by cross border bandits. But all that is about to change because Pilar is coming
under a tri-partite management regime.
Today the National Institute of Culture and history (NICH), the University
of California State at Santa Barbara and an NGO, Amigos De El Pilar signed on
to a management agreement. This document is the blue print on how the archaeological
site will be transformed from a destinations footnote to a premier eco-cultural
destination, complete with security for the visiting public and those managing
the site. Here are some highlights from the ceremony.
Yasser Musa, NICH President
"We've reached an important step in the vision of El Pilar and its surrounding
communities but there is so much work ahead and I want to pledge the commitment
of NICH to continue the hard work. While we may work together, not just a community
and archeology, a university all in the way in Santa Barbara and Archeology
and the community; a community, a university, an archaeology institute, and
a neighboring country, that the dynamic that we are sending today is bigger
than all of us. At some point the site needs to be taken over and owned by the
community, that an archaeologist can't own a site, that a NICH can't own a site,
that Guatemala or Belize as concepts of countries can't own a site---it is the
people that live near the site that must take this kind of ownership."
"You can't have collaboration without commitment and we can't have a
management plan for El Pilar without the commitment we're celebrating here today.
This is an amazing, wonderful, momentous moment for me because in my idea, Jaime
Awe's saying that some people in other countries are starting to see this, I
see that Belize can be the leader and if we have copycats all over the Maya
forests we would have regained the Mayan forests today; that is the real celebration
Hon. Mark Espat, Minister of Culture
"We believe that the El Pilar Management Plan is visionary because it
focuses attention on both the ancient and the modern Maya landscape. That is
to say our goal isn't only to conserve the prehistoric monuments of the site
but also its wider environments. In the past the traditional method of site
development and completely denuding the area of flora and fauna leaving just
the monumental architecture exposed, that has been the traditional method. The
El Pilar plan continues a vision that we have employed successfully and in different
degrees at other sites such as Caracol and at Cahal Pech. It is a also multi-disciplinary
approach in that its aim is to equally promote the conservation of the ancient
Maya architecture as well as the plants and animals that the Mayas relied upon
and continue to rely upon. Our goal then is to develop a park in which Belizeans
and Guatemalans and visitors and scientists, our children, and all members of
our communities can enjoy, study, and appreciate the symbiotic relationships
of the Maya landscape. In many respects my friends, today's event also marks
a monumental leap for the NICH because it is the first time really that our
institution is joining forces with our counterparts in Guatemala and with a
non-governmental organization and the community to manage one of our sites."
The management plan will see botanical trails, forest gardens and eco- friendly
developments taking place in the area.