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 Chapter 6: Issues in Land Use Minimize

One of the critical elements in site destruction in terms of the general setting (surrounding ecosystems and landscapes), structures (buildings in general or specific architectural components), or the deterioration of non-tangible attributes (cultural atmosphere, respect for history or tradition) has been the variety of land uses to which the sites of Monte Alban and Mitla have been subjected. Data from the archives at the INAH regional office in Oaxaca do not always capture this variety, as such data are not considered strictly "scientific" by archaeologists. These are more likely to become background material in the legal archives. Nevertheless, the analysis of land use for agricultural, touristic, or commercial purposes, for informal peddling, for mature, planned, or spontaneous housing purposes, for the infrastructure necessary to support such uses, or for other purposes enables us to understand the complexity of interests in the land base of these two sites.

On an average day the Oaxaca regional office receives from one to three communications regarding land use issues. Some may be applications from the owners of lands or houses located on the periphery or within an archaeological zone, soliciting permission to build or to expand existing construction according to relevant INAH criteria. Others may be notifications by INAH personnel regarding construction or other unauthorized land use. Still others may be applications from agencies responsible for infrastructure development requesting authorization to proceed with planned construction. In this sense archaeologists invest a great amount of their work time in the field attending applications or complaints and subsequently handling the documentation necessary to authorize or suspend someone else's project. The range of uses to which the two sites have been subject offers a sample of the ways in which the regulations governing land use have outstripped completely the technical, legal, and human capacity of the institution charged with responsibility for protecting the archaeological heritage.

One would think that as the lead agency in cultural resources preservation INAH would faithfully observe the best professional practice in site protection. Nevertheless analysis of land use, and above all those uses associated with tourist infrastructure, lead us to the conclusion that the agency lacks formal preparation as well as technical capacity and political commitment to approve only those projects truly compatible with the task of preservation.

It is important to note that over the past twenty years the tendency in land use at both sites has been a gradual shift from agricultural use toward housing, tourist and commercial services, and infrastructure. This tendency demonstrates the interests of the individuals and groups most closely linked to the sites and the forces which encourage societal interests in them, i.e., overwhelmingly that of commercial exploitation.