Hewitt Spain – Chichen Itza Information Brochure
Project Process Essay by Hewitt Spain
This project was more difficult to start on rather than it was to finish. It took me a while to figure out that I wanted to sell trips to Chichen Itza. I narrowed it down to this site because it was somewhere I had been and enjoyed. I went on this trip in 2010 with an ex who had similar historical interests. It was a cruise through Carnival and as soon as the path was decided upon I immediately chose Chichen Itza as “my excursion” since there was two stops available in the 5-day trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit though I lamented the fact that I did not get to peruse the entire site. There were two directions to take in the direction of either cenote being the one they used for human sacrifice and the one they used for a water source, and of course I went for human sacrifice. The other path would have taken me by El Caracol, which was an observatory for sky. I may go back someday and visit it.
My intent was to sell a trip to Chichen Itza while forcing myself to not be heavy-handed with the historical aspect of the site. Once I get to talking about any historical subject I am enthused about, I basically will not quit talking until someone changes the subject. This project helped rein that in due to the limited space on the pamphlet. The final product is an informational pamphlet on Chichen Itza that also serves as a way of actually getting there, while enticing the reader along the way. The sad aspect of selling trips like this to historians is that not everyone loves history as much as we do, so we have to put quite a lot of sugar in the tea so to speak. To do this the information in the pamphlet glosses over the other fun things to do near to Chichen Itza depending on which route is taken, flight or cruise. To a lot of people the cruise would be more fun and less expensive, so I gave it more of a nod than the flight/hotel route. Personally, I would take the flight/hotel deal so I could stay at the site longer, but this had to have a broader appeal than my narrow interests.
The pamphlet is intended to be distributed at coffee shops, travel centers and other places for those who might actually partake of the trip. I do not mean to typecast, but this would not be something that would be put in a bar or anywhere near to it. I created this pamphlet fairly easily with Microsoft Publisher, at the recommendation of nearly the entire class along with the professor. The software is a great aid to those who are not as adept at graphic design as others. When I started this project, I already had a great deal of information left over from research before the actual trip. I like to talk to the guides whenever I go any place like this, and so I did the typical Wikipedia >> Sources >> Documentary routine so I could sound like I knew what I was talking about. The guides seemed to like it as we talked for most of the two hours bus ride from Merida to the site. The actual creation of this pamphlet required a great deal of narrowing down to pertinent information, and that caused me some issues. It pains me having to leave out information, but brevity is necessary when talking to the general public about subjects. To that end, the speed that information hits people with the internet and television in this era requires catering to people that have been trained to have a short attention-span. I am not saying we were born with it, but we have been trained to it.
While that was a minor problem, my main issue was making people believe that the trip was a safe one. The drug violence near the US/Mexico border has created a stigma about the rest of the country that is not true. I felt safe the entire time and I needed to communicate that without being preachy. I went through the same thing when I went to Washington DC in 2007. My mother was actually bugging me about being safe there, not understanding that they go to great lengths to keep the touristy areas safe in the city. The same was true for were we went through to get to Chichen Itza. Safety was a non-issue to the effect that the US State Department’s warning on the US/Mexico border is just for that, the US/Mexico border. The rest of the country is just as safe as I am in Murfreesboro.
I enjoyed making this project because it forced me to think from a non-history loving person’s point of view. When I say this I mean that I enjoyed learning from that experience, because it will help me communicate my love of this subject both generally and specifically. In terms of what I did not like is mainly limiting my information to suite the general public. I really love talking about Chichen Itza but I simply was not able to do it justice in the pamphlet. In terms of public history, I know that this is not local to the Murfreesboro area, but it is important to North American history. This goes beyond the typical history of the US that dominates the Western hemisphere into the native groups that were prominent on the continent previous to Columbus’ rediscovery of the “New World.” The readings in this course all kind of congealed to force me to think of ways to “put asses in seats.” Historical sites large and small have to keep public interest, and if they have to latch on to large-scale travel to get in on the action, they should. The nature of the world is such now that rich, old white people are the dominant demographic, if they ever have been.