This is a tale of two intimately intertwined sites seen through the lens of tourism economics, identity, and change. Ek’ Balam is at once a small, seemingly mundane Mayan village and an archaeological site known for ornate stucco facades on its pyramids. It is close enough to Mérida and Cancún in the Yucatán to make it an easy one-day excursion. The archaeological site was opened to the public in 1994. In the early 2000s, state-funded community-based tourism (CBT) projects began to transform the community. CBT development funding initially invested in tourist housing, and other privately owned infrastructure followed. Anthropologist Sarah R. Taylor charts the impact and implications of the burgeoning tourist industry on Ek’ Balam and its people from 2004 to 2012.

At the crux of change is what Taylor refers to as the “ecosystem of authenticity,” a concept that captures the...

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