The illegal photo of Chichén Itzá. The illegal photo of the pyramid at Chichén Itzá.

No pyramid photos without a permit

Photographer was 'trespassing' when he used a drone to take photo at Chichén Itzá

A breathtaking pre-dawn aerial photograph of the Kukulcán pyramid in Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, got its author instant online notoriety — and legal action by Mexican authorities.


César Mendiburu Heredia used a drone to take the photo, which he shared on the social news aggregator Reddit. The accompanying caption indicated the photographer knew he could be in trouble.

“I took this aerial (and probably illegal?) photo of Chichén Itzá last weekend.”

Mendiburu did not break any drone regulations but the device he used to shoot Chichén Itzá is considered by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) as special photographic equipment.

As such, he should have completed an official form and paid 10,227 pesos (about US $540) if he wanted to shoot video, or 5,113 pesos ($270) if he only wanted to take photographs.

INAH’s legal liaison José Arturo Chab Cárdenas told El País that since the archaeological zone is property of the nation, it is subject to several federal laws. According to those regulations, Mendiburu’s photograph is illegal, because it was shot at a time when the archaeological zone was not open to the general public.

Even if the photo was obtained through a remotely operated vehicle, “it’s trespassing . . . it’s like breaking into a museum in the wee hours of the morning.”

In a press release issued on Wednesday, INAH said it had began a legal process against Mendiburu, as the photograph contravened the federal law on archaeological, artistic and historic monuments and zones.

Source: El País (sp), El Universal (sp)

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  • DreadFool

    no photograph should ever be illegal, even if the photographer is a wetback and his camera was stolen from a handicapped blind woman who survived a California school shooting by a radical Canadian feminist.

    • Rafael Rondon

      How fucking stupid are you? Seriously, I’m curious.

      • David Nichols

        Clearly you are the “fucking stupid” one here, Rafael…
        Get an education and learn to express yourself without being profane…

        • andy cooper


    • andy cooper

      Wetback huh? So your’e a 50+ year old racist?

  • Mason

    “he should have completed an official form and paid 10,227 pesos” “the archaeological zone is property of the nation”

    Good example of how the “nation” is not a service or representation of the people anymore. It is a tool of the 1% to extract money from the people.

  • What total arrant nonsense.

  • cruz_ctrl

    how about going after “developers” who build illegal structures?

  • andy cooper

    They don’t control the airspace. If he was in a public lot, and then flew above it they shouldn’t have a case. They wouldn’t in the States.

  • So, we are now going to see fines and official accion against Google Earth and all the surveillence satellites orbiting the earth are we – I don´t think so! – How high do you have to fly to avoid this bureaucracy?