Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Selling the Maya Mystique

Chances are good that many of the local people who used to work at the site wielding machates and cutting grass are now site vendors. On Friday, July 25th, I counted 79 vendors spread out on the ground at various locations within the site and this was not an unusual day.

This year, I would estimate that one third of the items being sold are painted cowhide leather works. This vendor has found an opportunity to use an ancient altar next to the palace to lay out his leather ware reproduction of Pakal the Great's sarcophagus lid and explain it in detail. Perhaps if the ancient Maya had cows back in those days, they might have gone through this same routine.
I will not speculate about the source or production of some of these modern leather "paintings" -- whether they are hand or machine made, but I know that all the works from this vendor were carved by him. I watched him expertly work several pieces from limestone.

One of the things that I find interesting is the variety of reactions by the tourists to the vendor's sales pitches. Here is a German couple heavily engaged in a transaction with a proactive and persistent Mexican vendor.
Other approaches at bargaining are more amenable. This man, being very sensitive and observant, kindly questions the indigenous Maya woman about her products and the sale goes down quite easily.

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