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.