Thursday, January 19, 2012

Robbing Culture to Pay Copan

We've said all there is to say before, but it bears re-iterating after a January 9 article in El Tiempo noted that Congress member Julio Cesar Gamez late last year introduced a bill which would assign 50% of the income from selling admission to the archaeological site of Copan to the town of Copan.

The basis of the argument advanced by the town of Copan is that they have a right to the income from admission to the archaeological site. This would take vital funding away from the Honduran Institute for Anthropology and History, responsible for all the cultural properties in Honduras, including Copan.

It's sheer greed, combined with the decreasing budgets given to municipalities by the state government in Honduras.

According to Mayor Helmy Réne Giacoman, who leads the latest effort,
"We are only left with the trash that the tourists leave",

a statement that ignores all the benefits that the town and its residents derive from those tourists. The Mayor speaks nonsense, of course.

As Victor Manuel Ramos noted last August in his column in El Tiempo, the town of Copan
receives most benefits from the Archaeological Park, because the enormous quantity of visitors also stay in the hotels of the locality, they consume food, they buy crafts, they visit the restaurants and the shops and use local transportation. All those businesses contribute taxes to the municipality. More than that, the benefits that the Institute receives are really limited if we compare them with those that the entire community and the municipality receives, since the costs for entry are very cheap and if we do an analysis of the expenditures of the visitors we will see that a tiny quantity corresponds to the Institute in the shape of tickets since the major part of the expenditures of the tourists remains in the hands of the local business people.

Just to be clear, tourism poured $650 million into the Honduran economy last year.

A 2003 study by the UN suggests that more than $60 million of that went directly to the town of Copan.

That's some trash.

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