Communal landowners protest in Oaxaca in August. Communal landowners protest in Oaxaca in August.

Oaxaca archaeological attraction closed after gunfire between neighbors

Another conflict over territory in Oaxaca involves land adjacent to Monte Albán

One of Oaxaca’s top attractions, the Monte Albán archaeological site, was closed to the public on Tuesday after a gunfight broke out nearby over a land dispute in the surrounding area.

A group of communal landowners arrived in the area near Monte Albán about 9:00am with the intention of driving out people whom they claim to have occupied the land illegally. Neighbors reported hearing gunfire soon after.

The gunfight left one person dead and three wounded. The attackers also demolished and burned some houses that the alleged invaders had built on the land.

Oaxaca Public Security Secretary Ernesto Salcedo deployed police to the scene in order to avoid further confrontations.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which is responsible for the site, installed a chain-link fence in the area to demarcate the contested land. But it too has been accused of being part of the problem.

The Monte Albán archaeological site in Oaxaca.
The Monte Albán archaeological site in Oaxaca.

The alleged occupants of the disputed land have accused INAH director Ilan Vit Suzan and deputy director Silvano Reyes Medina of having violated their human rights.

The 300 families claim that they are the rightful owners of 3,000 hectares adjacent to the Monte Albán site.

In August, they protested outside the INAH offices in Oaxaca city, demanding that the institution recognize their ownership and allow them to use the land. They claimed to have been beaten and robbed during previous eviction attempts.

“We bought our land in good faith. We are not responsible for the fact that the prevailing institutional corruption has allowed the sale of land in a prohibited area, which INAH now argues,” said one of the protesters in August.

After Tuesday’s eviction, the invaders blocked roads and broke into the INAH offices in Oaxaca city, where they detained workers in order to demand that their rights be respected.

Sources: Milenio (sp), Diario Marca (sp)

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