Calakmul renominated on UNESCO World Heritage List

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The Ancient Mayan City and Protected Tropical Forest of Calakmul, Campeche became a mixed cultural and natural property in the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by the World Heritage Committee this 21st of June 2014 during the 38th session in Qatar.

The area registered in the World Heritage list of UNESCO, located in the southern part of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, is considered the second biggest extension of tropical forests in America and the most well preserved of the region with a total of 723 thousand hectares.

The new inscription was a renomination and extension of the existing listed property from 2002 which increased the area of protection from an original 331,397 hectares where 38 Mayan architectonic centers are located that form part of the cultural property of Calakmul.

The zone is witness to the unprecedented growth of an extraordinary civilization that arrived to an abrupt end in the late Classic period (IX and X centuries). From then practically uninhabited, only with a contemporary intervention (limited to the exploitation of wood and gum trees in the 20th century), which guarantees the criteria’s of authenticity and integrity and represents an exceptional testimony to a long civilization that offers a unique possibility to understand as much the foundations of its blossoming as the causes of its collapse.

The great value of Calakmul, that in Maya means ´the city of the adjacent mounds´ lies in the interaction that the people of the region have with the natural resources which are used sustainably to obtain economic benefit and to improve the conditions of life.

One of the main activities that the families develop is beekeeping with around nine thousand hives in an area of 15 thousand hectares that benefits approximately three thousand farmers from twenty communities. Through the brand Calakmiel, certified organic bee honey and stingless melipone bee are produced with healing attributes which is highly valued in the European market.

The extraction of natural chewing gum, that is from the resin of a wild tree known as chicozapote, also represents an important income for one thousand 700 hundred inhabitants of the community grouped in 47 cooperatives that export to Europe ad Asia under their own brand Chicza in lemon, peppermint and mint flavors.

The controlled exploitation of the forest plant species known as Chechen, ciricote and granadillo is another good livelihood for the sales in the automotive industry. One of the main clients is the German brand Mercedes Benz that buys the wood to decorate luxury cars.

The World Heritage of UNESCO recognized Calakmul as an important sanctuary of biodiversity in Mesoamerica that combines all the existing tropical and subtropical ecosystems from the center of Mexico to the Panama Canal.

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In nearly 750 thousand hectares live 350 species of birds, almost 100 species of mammals, 50 reptiles, 400 varieties of butterflies, hundreds of tree species with precious wood and 1600 varieties of plants. In this region emblematic and at risk species inhabit such as the jaguar, howler monkey, puma, tapir, king vulture, bats, orquids, chicozapote (chewing gum and a fruit) and mahogany tree. Being the second largest continent mass of tropical jungle after the Amazons, Calakmul has an extraordinary importance because it provides four percent of the total oxygen of the planet.

Since 2002 the Ancient Mayan City of Calakmul received recognition as a Cultural Heritage site however this new designation (on the 21st of June 2014) converts it into the first mixed cultural and natural property in Mexico and the third in America for its impressive archaeological constructions (cultural) and on the other hand a rich flora and fauna (natural).

Within the cultural criteria of the UNESCO Calakmul exceeds those that refer to the conservation of archaeological vestiges intact from the development of the Mayan civilization 10 centuries old and the creative combination of different traditions that give this place a specific architectonic style and unique archaeological pieces.

The ancient city and protected tropical forest are a surprising evidence of the long interaction between man and nature and has a rich biodiversity and critical ecosystems providing viability for species and populations that do not exist anywhere else.

Mexico is a country of the most World Heritage sites in America with a total of 32, 26 in the cultural category, 5 in the natural category and 1 in the mixed cultural and natural.

Sources:

Ernesto Méndez, Calakmul tesoro sustentable, Excelsior, 2014-07-27
La ciudad Maya de Calakmul en la lista de patrimonio mundial de la UNESCO, http://florcastillo.mx/