Mexican tourism boom: Tulum’s locals fight evictions as developers move in

Mexican tourism boom: Tulum’s locals fight evictions as developers move in

Indigenous people in the tourist hotspot on the Riviera Maya face losing their homes as land is sold for luxury housing

In Tulum, the jewel of Mexico’s Riviera Maya , where ancient ruins perch above white-sand beaches frequented by Hollywood stars , a rapidly growing district of luxury condominiums looms above a barrio made up of homes inhabited mostly by local Indigenous people.

The 12,000-strong community who live in the 137-hectare (340-acre) hamlet of 2 de Octubre are facing eviction as developers forge ahead with plans to build on land sold by the Quintana Roo state government to meet demand for high-end property in the popular beach town.

Almost 4 million more tourists arrived into the state’s airports in July and August, compared with the same period in 2019. The opening of a new international airport in Tulum next year will drive up visitor numbers even further.

The condos primed to replace the simple dwellings could each sell for up to $300,000 (£280,000) – putting them far beyond the reach of local people, many of whom earn about $20 a day amid some of Mexico’s starkest disparities of wealth and an absence of social housing.

Authorities declared Tulum a “world yoga capital” in 2017, but the wellness drive came as the Caribbean municipality also sought to style the town as a global party destination, raising the demand for drugs and creating a tempting prize for gangs to fight over.

Tensions are brewing in step with rapid gentrification and social change, which has seen the poverty rate jump to 62% – the highest in the country.

While there is no shortage of low-paid service-sector jobs, the threat of eviction hangs over the local people who helped transform Tulum from wilderness to a thriving town of at least 50,000 people.

“It is a mockery: these are the hard-working people whose hands have built Tulum,” says Rafael Barajas, president of a local community organisation. “Violence in the state is deep-rooted and a modern apartheid keeps communities isolated and in poverty.

“Lands have been effectively stolen and sold to unscrupulous investors and hotel owners, who operate with impunity,” he says.

Indigenous people are being forced further away from the most desirable areas to make way for foreigners who can afford the high prices.

“The businesses want the Mayans to do their shifts but then disappear at night,” adds Barajas. Leaders of a campaign started this year to resist eviction have refused reported offers of land about 10 miles away, not least because commuting to work each day would eat into already meagre paypackets.

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This is an excerpt from an article by Mattha Busby earlier published by The Guardian.

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