GUATEMALA CITY.- (EFE) The Guatemalan government is negotiating the purchase of land holding the ruins of Zaculeu, a Maya fortress that served as a trench against the advance of the Spaniards, in the northwestern province of Huehuetenango, Culture Minister Jeronimo Lancerio said.
In a statement published Saturday in the daily Prensa Libre, Lancerio said that he is personally negotiating the purchase with the family that owns the property with a complex of buildings from the post-classic Maya period.
"We want to buy this site so that it becomes property of the state and is administered by the Culture Ministry," the official said.
Lancerio did not reveal the identity of the owners nor the amount of money the state is offering to buy Zaculeu, merely stating that he hoped to wind up negotiations by 2010.
The minister said that once the state buys the land, it will invest in a museum and a handicrafts market in order to benefit the artisans of Huehuetenango.
The Zaculeu archaeological site is located some 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) from the city of Huehuetenango, capital of the like-named province, and history says that around the year 1524 it was the fortress of the Mam ethnicity where for two months their king, Kaibil Balam, dug in to hold off the advancing Spaniards.
Zaculeu influenced and was in turn influenced by the cultures of Guatemala's central region, above all Kaminal Juyu, and according to archaeological research, it was an essential post for trade with Mexico.
The name K'iche' that the archaeological site was given is related to a king named Zakuleu and was declared a Pre-Columbian Monument by government decree on April 24, 1931.
The site is made up of a series of plazas, stepped pyramids, ceremonial temples and a patio for playing ball, a display of Maya splendor.
Its buildings date to the Maya post-classic period (900 A.D. until the arrival of the Spaniards), though the city was originally settled in the 5th century, and unlike other archaeological centers, its buildings are low, flat and without decorations.
The name Zaculeu comes from the words "zac" meaning white and "uleu" meaning land, and the ruins are located on a small mesa surrounded by ravines. EFE