The land in Guatemala City that holds the archeological site Tulam Tzu, also known as El Rosario-Naranjo, was sold to a real estate company that planned to build a condominium complex of 250 homes.
Due to the petition of CEJIL and the Center for the Legal Defense of Indigenous Rights, in 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures and ordered the Government to make the necessary decisions to protect the archeological center. Despite the precautionary measures, a large part of the site was destroyed.
Tulam Tzu, declared a national Cultural Heritage site in 1970, had six mounds that were considered sacred to the Mayan community, where their priests performed religious ceremonies. The site still held pieces of ceramics and sacred stones that had not been recovered or studied.
In 2005, the leadership of the Cultural Heritage approved a company’s request to build in places adjacent to three of the mounds. The Mayan priests that normally arrived to pray at that site couldn’t continue to do so due to the work being done. For the indigenous, what happened in Tulam Tzu is a desecration and destruction of a sacred space.
The Guatemalan Government didn’t intervene to prevent the destruction of the ceremonial center. According to the Guatemalan newspaper, La Prensa Libre, the Culture Ministry explained to the indigenous organizations that the laws don’t allow the government to expropriate the land, but rather only to coordinate with the owners to protect and salvage the cultural estates.
The indigenous went to the local courts and the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice, who declared that the construction in El Rosario-Naranjo impeded on the practice of Mayan religious and social celebrations, in violation of the Guatemalan constitution, and ordered the suspension of construction work. However, the company alleged that it hadn’t been officially notified and continued with the construction.