Maya Research Program



The Maya village of Cobá is located within the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Resting 45 kilometers inland from the town of Tulum, it can be found within the major tourism corridor dominated by the resort city of Cancun. While Cobá has survived for decades as an agricultural village, the new economy has forced the town to evolve into a more modern community. It is a transition that Cobá has struggled to make.

While a magnificent ancient ruin is located right next to the village, and attracts thousands of tourists every year, the village itself is often overlooked. While Cobá’s residents are skilled artists and craftsmen, tourists tend to ignore the modern village and pass directly to the ruins. This is due to the undeveloped look of most of Cobá’s houses and stores; streets are unkempt and poorly maintained, and most of the houses are unpainted, giving the community a less than inviting aesthetic.  Many family businesses are set up inside of people’s homes, with little to no indication given to tourists that there are items for sale within the community.

Despite this, Cobá’s people, in partnership with the Maya Research Program, have developed concrete plans for the community’s economic and artistic revitalization. Currently, we are hard at work to raise funds for a dramatic transformation of the village’s primary thoroughfare.  The roadway will be designed as a place for sustainable commerce that will form the backbone of the community’s economic revival.

Cobá’s people have developed a multifaceted plan of action to change their fortunes:

  • Paint and decorate the houses of 120 families in Cobá.  The designs that will be used to adorn the houses are heavily inspired by traditional Mayan dress designs and pre-Columbian Maya iconography. Priority will be given to the houses located on the main street that tourists regularly pass through while on their way to the ruins.  This initiative has already begun on and off main street, and additional funding will permit the expansion of the project.

  • Provide the village with heavy-duty plastic trash bins that can be used for a large-scale cleanup operation.  This initiative has already started, and small-scale funding would permit this cleanup to continue.  Local children are engaged in the cleanup, and receive ice cream as a reward for their efforts.

  • Purchase and distribute 240 plastic folding tables and 480 plastic chairs that can be used by the villagers to display their wares at the side of the road, in full view of visiting tourists.  This will allow the villagers to more easily sell their artistic works and authentic cuisine to visitors, as well as give short crafting classes to passersby.

  • Improve and enhance signage in the village to advertise the many points of interest located within contemporary Cobá. Signage in the village is underdeveloped, and residents are eager to experiment with better images and lettering for store fronts.

We have estimated that if average tourist spending in Cobá increases by a mere $10 per person, average family income in the village would increase by nearly 20%. This would represent a dramatic increase in the villagers’ quality of life, and allow Cobá’s people to begin to secure their own future.

To any interested in taking a hands-on role in Cobá’s restoration, we are more than happy to accept volunteers. Please direct all inquiries to

Interested in joining the team? Call 817-831-9011 or email Dr. Tom Guderjan :