Critics have accused Hansen of wanting to develop the area to increase archaeological tourism in a way that would harm the local population, many of whom are Indigenous.
Hansen, whose proposals have won support from a number of Maya leaders, has said that his proposals are environmentally sustainable, would provide jobs for Indigenous communities and would mitigate the influence of what he called the “mafias” operating in the region.
The LAT had a long, vivid article about the area and the archaeologist last month, headlined, "Jaguars, narcos, illegal loggers: One man’s battle to save a jungle and Maya ruins":
For four decades Hansen and a group of more than 40 archaeologists and specialists have worked at El Mirador to preserve the enormous cultural wealth of the Maya empire, which dominated a region that encompasses swaths of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.
In 1983, while traveling in a small plane from Las Flores, Hansen, his wife, Jody, and his daughter Micalena crashed in the middle of the jungle. Everyone got out alive, but the episode brought home that, while the region’s perils are constantly close by, help is very far away.
Their work here has pulled Hansen and his team into a fierce debate over how best to sustainably preserve the biosphere around the site, as well as the impoverished communities that live off the jungle’s bounty.
“I am not leading any imperialist invasion,” he said. “We are simply trying to suggest that there is a viable, superior economic alternative for the impoverished communities through controlled, restricted eco-tourism, as opposed to poaching, looting, logging, oil drilling and money laundering by corrupt forces that do not want the conservation and protection of this area.”
*Previously: A Rogue Taliban Governor Has Been Digging Beneath the Ruins of the Bamiyan Buddhas, Chasing a Rumor of Buried Treasure