Archaeology and Economic Development 2012
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Community and Heritage: A Community Heritage Project in Tihosuco, Quintana Roo, Mexico

co-authors: 

Carlos Chan Espinosa - Museo de la Guerra de Castas

Eladio Moo Pat - Community of Tihosuco

Demetrio Poot Cahun - Ejido of Tihosuco

What is a community and how can communities define heritage?

It is easy for archaeologists to talk about community, it is an often discussed term in anthropology, although difficult to define clearly. It is also easy for archaeologists to talk about heritage - the entire discipline is based upon a study of the past defined as heritage. Finally, it is easy for archaeologists to define what is important about the past and therefore to define heritage.

But the difficulty is that such an ‘easy’ and ‘simple’ approach to heritage misses the entire point of how community and heritage go together. Communities are messy and complex entities that are sometimes able to come together around a set of values that often includes cultural patrimony. Communities can define heritage, can define what sites to preserve and can be the leader in the preservation of culture and tradition. Archaeologists can certainly argue for their opinion and perspective but a community’s interests should not be pushed aside simply because these interests do not match a model from the western cultural tradition.

One such community heritage project is highlighted and involves the past preservation and current development of patrimony associated with the Caste War of the Yucatan – a rebellion of Maya people against Mexico that started in the mid 19th century and continued for at least 50 years. Some say this rebellion continues today in the region. 

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