The Maya Initiative is a GCI project that seeks to establish a heritage management plan for the Maya region. Its objective is conservation of the heritage through inclusive management planning, better coordination of human and material resources, and the solution of several technical conservation issues.
In July 1997 at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the GCI convened a meeting of cultural heritage officials from countries in which Maya culture developed: Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. The meeting also included representatives from El Mundo Maya, Fomento Social Banamex, the World Bank, and Banco InterAmericano de Desarrollo, organizations that are either involved in regional matters related to cultural heritage or are interested in their development. Meeting participants recognized the necessity of defining and developing a regional management plan, and the importance of organizing efforts in areas of mutual interest, such as site management planning and scientific and technical research.
The Getty Center meeting was followed by two other meetings, which have led to an official collaboration. The first meeting, in Mérida, Mexico, in January 1998, concluded with an agreement by those present to promote the organizing of a "consortium." The second meeting, in Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala, in April 1998, solidified the efforts of the Mérida meeting with an agreement establishing an organization that included institutions in charge of the heritage of four of the Maya-region countries; this agreement is the first major milestone of the Maya Initiative. Interinstitutional collaboration, long a goal of these organizations, has become a reality.
Parallel to this development, projects of mutual interest have been identified, and agreements are being drawn up between the responsible countries and the GCI. The area of Yaxhá-Nakum-Naranjo in Guatemala's El Petén region will be the subject of a broad management plan that extends beyond the boundaries of a site and that integrates the site into its environment. At Joya de Cerén in El Salvador, the project will focus on creating a management plan for the site and its environment and investigating the effects of its protective structures and the causes of deterioration of its earthen structures. The Copán site in Honduras will be the object of research on the causes of stone deterioration, the conditions created by the protective structures, a planning methodology for such structures, and the structural stabilization of monuments and tunnels dug for archaeological research or other purposes. Experts from the partner countries will participate in projects outside their own country as part of the effort.
These agreements—and the sharing of information that will grow out of them—form the first step in the creation of a regional management plan. In the future, financial organizations such as the World Bank, which is interested in the initiative, will be asked to support the project's activities financially.