The heart of Maya culture was in Hurricane Dean’s path on Monday — dozens of historical sites including the stunning seaside ruins of Tulum and a temple where oppressed Mayas said they found divine inspiration for a 19th-century uprising.
Government anthropologists said they were preparing 13 archaeological sites for the storm, shooing away tourists, pruning trees and removing signs and vegetation that strong winds could turn into damaging projectiles.
Also vulnerable is the 2.5 million-acre Sian Kaan nature reserve, which includes remnants of a canal network used by oceangoing Mayan traders 1,200 years ago.
The army sent 3,900 troops to Quintana Roo state, which includes the coastal resorts of the Riviera Maya. Hundreds of tourists were evacuated. Many at the southern tip of Mexico’s coast were being taken to the farming town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, where dozens of buses were lined up to handle evacuees.
Felipe Carrillo Puerto is home to the Temple of the Talking Cross, where Mayan rebels kept a cross that they believe spoke to them, encouraging an uprising against colonizers in the 1850s.
The Maya held the city for 51 years until Mexican government troops retook it in 1901.
Perched at the top of a 39-foot rocky cliff, the 800-year-old main temple at Tulum will probably escape the brunt of the waves. And these structures, built with solid rock, have withstood many tropical storms over the centuries.
Still, the storm surge could easily enter through a break in the cliff and flood other structures, covering fragments of hand-painted murals with sea water, said Carlos Esperon, the assistant head of the National Anthropological Institute in Quintana Roo.