Archaeologists file criminal complaint over Placido Domingo concert at Chichen Itza

Placido Domingo’s concert at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza is being billed as “the world’s greatest tenor at one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World,” a claim few lovers of opera or history would dispute.

But some Mexicans question whether the show should go on at all.

Archaeologists are pressing for criminal charges against the organizers, reviving a debate over how to use treasured ancient sites.

Domingo’s concert inside Chichen Itza violates a law that requires the ruins to be preserved to educate Mexicans about ancient cultures, said Cuauhtemoc Velasco, a leader of the archaeologists’ union.

“These monuments are not there so that rich people can hold events at them” said Velasco, noting the tickets cost between $45 and $900 in a country with a minimum wage of about $4.50 per day.

Jorge Esma, who is organizing the concert for the Yucatan state government, counters that non-ticket holders can watch it for free on local television, and says the Mayan temples will be well protected. The government has required light stage structures, forbidden anything from being anchored into ancient stones, and will have experts on hand to evaluate the impact on the 1,200-year-old temples.

The concert is expected to draw 4,000 people, the number set by the government as a maximum after organizers asked for permission to hold a much larger event.

Esma said more than half a dozen concerts have been held at Chichen Itza since Luciano Pavarotti sang there in 1997. He said that shows such events can be held without damaging the temples. He noted that other countries use their ancient sites for concerts: “There are questions to be asked about this globalized trend, but what we can’t do is try to stop it.”

Mexico’s federal government turns down almost all requests to hold concerts at ancient temples, but they are increasingly pressured by state governors to promote ruins already swamped with tourists.

Domingo sought to reassure his critics, saying “I know there has been some discomfort in Mexico because I was going to perform at this site, but we have taken care of every detail to carry out this event.”