They appear to be harmless souvenirs, at least to humans, but the reality is quite different. These are the things you shouldn’t take with you from Yucatán… not for anything in the world!
Seashells, Corals, and Other Aquatic Creatures
At some point, we’ve all walked along the beach with our eyes down while looking for something spectacular. I know that, in the past, I’ve been guilty of taking a couple of shells as souvenirs. However, these are seemingly innocuous acts that do in fact degrade the ecosystem.
First of all, shells help prevent beach erosion, a significant problem for the Yucatecan coastline. Also, birds use them to build their nests; they help fish hide from predators; and mollusks develop new shells from the calcium carbonate found in old shells.
Regarding corals and starfish, identifying whether they are dead or alive isn’t as easy as you’d think, so it’s best not to take them. In the case of corals, they help maintain the oceans’ pH levels even when they are no longer living.
Small Rocks and Pieces of Pottery From Archaeological Sites
Within archaeological sites, you’ll find countless carved stones and pieces of pottery. Some have already been restored into temples and platforms…others are still waiting for their turn or are scattered on the ground, undiscovered. Please – as much as you may want to, and as harmless as it may seem – if you pick up a stone from the ground, don’t take it with you. Instead, feel free to admire the carvings or remains of paint on it, then leave it where you found it.
Archaeological sites are under constant restoration, meaning that archaeologists are still working and discovering new remains that need to be studied. You might think one won’t make a difference, but it could be part of a larger structure and the key to future discoveries.
And most importantly…there are stories of people who took stones home and had to return them. The reason? They swore that after taking the remains, they started having bad luck. Not that I’m superstitious or believe that Aluxes have had anything to do with it, but I think it’s best to play it safe.
You’ll find handcraft stores selling small beetles (Zopheridae) with fake rhinestones and a golden chain. They are traditionally known as Makech – Maquech or Yucatecan beetle – and their use as a brooch comes from an ancient Maya legend that tells the story of a Maya princess and a boy who turned into one of these insects as a symbol of his love. When they’re not being worn as brooches, these bejeweled beetles are kept in glass or plastic jars with small pieces of wood for them to feed on; however, because they’re not in their natural habitat nor being properly fed, they tend to die soon after being purchased.
It’s worth mentioning that while they aren’t officially endangered, some people have mentioned Makeches being increasingly hard to find.
Editorial by Olivia Camarena
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Yucatán Today, Carlos Rosado, and Loboluna Producciones for its use in Yucatán Today.
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