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Aug 25, 2005

Altun Ha vendor claims victimisation by NICH

Story PictureWith increased tourism, comes increased expectation of financial gain. But despite changes at Altun Ha and attempts to give the vendors increased access to visitors, one arts and craft merchant at the site claims the improvements are working against him and the artisans who supply his gift shop. News Five’s Jacqueline Woods was at the site today.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Today it appears as if it was business as usual at the Altun Ha, but for gift shop owner Sydney Prince it was anything but normal at the Maya site. Since February, Prince claims he and his family have been struggling to get any of their art and craft sold to the hundreds of tourists who visit the location because they have been being cut off from the action. Prince says the problem started approximately six months ago after the reserve’s regulatory body National Institute of Culture and History, NICH, relocated the entrance to the site that no longer gives visitors access to his establishment.

Sydney Prince, Owner, Kinich Ahua Gift Shop
“The reason for that they explain to we is that because a lot of thief always go in there and thief things, but the nothing like that. They do have thief around here, but one or two because when they block that off, you got on the far left-hand side whole ah deh open and far right-hand side whole ah deh open too. So the idea that thief entering there, they could go in anywhere they want.”

Jacqueline Woods
“So why do you believe they closed it?”

Sydney Prince
“Well I believe they closed to strictly to knock down my business, to stop my business. Because the first one, the first business I had was a shop right there and they run a fence ninety degrees and they boxed me out completely. So we build this, now they block off the original entrance and they build a new entrance over there fi bypass this.”

Prince says the situation is not only hurting his business, but it’s affecting the livelihood of the villagers in the neighbouring communities.

Sydney Prince
“Kill my business that is the word I would use, kill it because normally we would have about eight to ten man the work out here everyday from all villages along this side, Lucky Strike, back here at Rock Stone Pond, Maskall, Santana, and way from Bomba, they come and go every day. So when they block that off, they automatically knock off, they stop we revenue, the money we di mek. And once we noh di mek any money, we can’t hire anybody. Then I have a family over there at the same time to feed and take care of, so come everything completely knock out.”

Adolfo Mendez is one of those workers who say he is now out of a job because no one has been coming into the Kinich Ahua Gift Shop.

Adolfo Mendez, Carver
“I could always say to anybody that I can come to Mister Sydney. If I choose to make a hundred dollars a day, here is where I can make it and anytime they try to box his loaf of bread it?s like they are taking away mine and many other people loaf of bread. And the reason, I don’t know what’s the reason for that and this is what I want the people to understand and try to look into his situation and do something about it because if you don’t do something about it, it’s like you are inspiring people to do what? Something negative?”

Prince says last year when NICH held a meeting with the villagers to explain to them the work that will be done at the site, he was told that his business may be hampered, but that an area would be allocated to the vendors seven days a week so they would not be affected. Instead Prince claims he was the only one left standing outside looking in, except for one day?Tuesday?when Prince says he is allowed to go into the designated area and sell.

Sydney Prince
“All I am asking for is give me an opportunity like everybody else like there. They condemn my shop, I noh expect them to give me a mile of space over there, but at least give me something that I could put up my tent and seal up like my brother-in-law over deh so. He just seal up everything, he sell soft drink, souvenir, snacks; that good everybody has to survive. But then if he is doing that and the next people they hustle over there di sell their carvings and their souvenirs, why can’t I do the same thing? Why they box me out? Why they noh want me over there? Why they giving me so much problem?”

Prince’s shop is situated on six acres of private property that belongs to his family. Prince says they decided to use the ideal location to make a living, but he feels that all the money he has invested has now gone to waste.

According to NICH President Yasser Musa, he is aware of the situation but says NICH did offer a space to Prince but that he wanted something bigger than what is temporarily offered to the vendors. Musa says presently construction is underway for a permanent pavilion that will house a total of sixteen stalls, one of which will be for Prince. Musa says they decided to shift the original entrance because the new location is closer to the new ticket and visitors area and bathroom facilities. Musa says NICH has always given priority to the villagers and work closely with the respective authorities in the surrounding areas. Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

News Five understands that a NICH representative will be heading out to the area on Friday to see what can be done to amicably address the situation.

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