CBS announces 'Survivor 11' to film in Mayan ruins, be titled 'Survivor: Guatemala'
By Reality TV World staff, 05/16/2005
CBS has announced that this fall's upcoming eleventh installment of its Survivor franchise will take place in Guatemala and be titled Survivor: Guatemala, The Maya Empire.
The network made the announcement at the conclusion of last night's Survivor: Palau finale, with Survivor host Jeff Probst presenting a Survivor: Guatemala preview that stated that Guatemala will drop the competition's cast size back to eighteen (compared to the twenty featured in Palau) and, for the first time in a Survivor series, require its castaways to live in the ruins of a vanished civilization.
The preview also stated that the castaways would be "forced to embrace the ancient Maya lifestyle" after being "marooned within this mystical and rugged terrain" -- with the exact meaning of the comments no doubt intended to remain intentionally vague until the show's September 2005 debut.
Despite CBS's secrecy, thanks to the announcements of Guatemalan authorities, some additional details of the show's location have emerged -- starting with the fact that not all of the country's government offices appear to have been in favor of allowing some of their ancient ruins to serve as an exotic set for the latest edition of Mark Burnett's long-running reality show. According to Guatemalan reports, the country's federal government announced in late April that they had reached -- over the objections of the government's Ministry of Culture office -- a controversial agreement to allow the show to film in the Mayan ruins located within the country's Yaxhá national park.
The decision appears to be controversial primarily due to the fact that unlike the nearby UNESCO-protected Tikal ruins site, the ruins at Yaxhá are still being restored, with archaeologists still excavating and restoring the structures, plazas, and causeways that comprise the ruins.
However despite the ruin's status, Guatemala's el Periódico newspaper reported that the country's National Council of Protected Areas office authorized the show to film in the area, as long as the show's producers agreed to stipulations that the castaways would not be allowed to hunt any game and that they would exhibit care with regard to protecting the area's ecosystem.
But based on a quote in el Periódico's story, the National Council of Protected Areas office's decision appears to have been based on a less than full understanding of the show's requirements, with Ana Luisa Noguera, the National Council of Protected Areas Executive Secretary who issued the letter granting the show access to the park, telling the newspaper that she'd never seen the program, but had been told that "only eighteen people will enter the park, plus the cameraman."
Meanwhile, at least one of the organization's staffers appears to be quite familiar with the fact that the show is likely to utilize upwards of 200 cast and crew members during the May 18-August 10 period during which the northern Guatemala park will be closed to the public -- and he still doesn't see it a problem.
Protesters of the government's decision have cited the fact that so many people will have exclusive access to the area for so long (57 days) as a potentially damaging scenario, however Vinicio Montero, the regional director for the National Council of Protected Areas office in Petén, doesn't think that will be an issue, telling the paper (in spanish) that there are already over 220 people involved with the existing restoration efforts working and living in the area. As such, "having others [such as the Survivor cast and crew] live here will not have an additional negative effect."
Featuring a twin pyramid complex, nine acropolis and more than 500 structures, the Yaxhá site is located on the shore of crocodile-infested Lake Yaxhá, with the ruins on the edge of a lagoon.
Personnel from the Ministry of Culture, the National Council for Protected Areas, and Guatemalan Tourist Institution will all reportedly supervise the filming. However despite the supervison, they don't anticipate any problems, with one government representative even commenting (in spanish) that "the problems that threaten Yaxhá today seem more likely to be caused by Guatemalans than by foreigners" -- an apparent allusion to the native looting that has plagued the sites for decades.