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How Tourism is Destroying Mexico’s Rivera Maya Coast

June 2, 2014
by 

FROM CANCUN TO PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico’s northern Yucatán coast is rapidly turning into one huge resort. Some of these expansive, decadent getaways for (mostly) Americans and Europeans are “all-inclusive,” meaning food and (bottom shelf) liquor are included in the price of your stay. You can drink and eat to your heart’s content. Hundreds of thousands of vacationers flood these resorts every year, ingesting, imbibing, soaking up the sun and exclusive private beaches.

Fair enough, right?

“Playa Del Carmen is dying. The all-inclusive resorts are killing it,” Diego tells me during an interview for JustaPack. Acutely intrigued by this statement, I met up with him a week or so later to learn more.

The “First World” has entered towns like Playa del Carmen, introducing hard capitalism, and turned what used to be a quiet fishing hamlet into a thrumming, throbbing beach town filled with boutique shops, pricey restaurants, and obnoxious booming nightclubs. The growth has been rapid and is nowhere near finished. The locals have adapted to this new way of life, and ply all sorts of services to the outsiders. You walk down the main tourist strip and are offered everything from clothes, massages, food, “buy junk you don’t need before you leave” (according to one witty salesperson), and drugs. Always ends with the drugs.

“I got the party, the real stuff. Marijuana, coke, X. I got it all.”

As you can imagine, this has led to a sharp increase in violence and theft in the area, as where drug dealers roam, roams strife and danger. One example Diego mentioned was the sharp increase in bicycle “muggings.” You slow down on your bike at an intersection and barely even perceive the danger before you’re knocked to the ground, perhaps beaten, and have your bike taken. This happens in local areas as the police are busy patrolling tourist areas.

Locals suffer; we relax and party. Familiar story.

Now say you’re staying in an all-inclusive resort. You might leave the grounds one of the four or five nights of your stay. You normally are a few kilometers from the main tourist areas, so take a taxi into town. You certainly aren’t buying food or liquor, which are probably the top draws of Playa’s tourist strip, 5th Avenue. Yeah, you might buy some trinkets. Or you go to the brand new Gucci / Levi’s / Prada / Nike / Forever 21 stores and buy some shit there.

The competition for the leftover scraps is fierce. This leads to every local establishment having a tout or two outside, hard-selling the goods / services offered. They make eye contact if they can, turn your head with any comment that might grab your attention, and then swoop in. The sell is desperate and at times bitter, since they only get paid if you actually spend some money. They aren’t selling local culture or handcrafts, either — they’re selling imported bullshit from China. T-shirts with logos and stupid quotes like “I like to fart – Playa Del Carmen” and cheaply manufactured “Mexican” sombreros dominate the retail landscape.

Mexican citizens can buy vacations at Mexican all-inclusive resorts on layaway. Basically, they pay the price over the course of a year or two, take a long bus ride from Mexico City, and find themselves in a little private piece of heaven, away from the bustle, crime, and pollution of that sprawling urban monstrosity. Since they have probably been putting most of their vacation money away to pay for the all-inclusive resort, they’re unlikely to spend any money during a trip into town. The locals of Playa are really bitter about this type of tourist, seeing it as a betrayal from their own kind. The “all-inclusive Mexicans” are frowned upon more than any other sort in Playa.

The all-inclusive resorts rarely hire locals. They offer unpaid internships to Mexicans from all over the country who have gone to hospitality school, importing them for their knowledge of English and other languages, and for their education. This freezes out the locals almost completely, as many of the best paying jobs are in the hospitality industry. Nor do the locals see any sort of profit sharing from these places. The all-inclusive resorts pay a tax (or a bribe, depending on how realistic you want to be about it) to the national government. One would think the resorts would give SOMETHING back to the community. Nope. Aside from some infrastructure they barely use, the locals get nothing.

Oh, wait, they DID get a Walmart! Lucky them, huh? Freshly built, this gigantic megastore is the all-inclusive resort of shopping. It sells everything and features prices that are mostly beyond reach of locals. One-stop shopping is highly convenient and Walmart, as it’s done everywhere, has laid its insidious roots, managing to put all sorts of other locally owned shops out of business.

There’s talk of building a gigantic shopping center near Playa Del Carmen, called theDragon Mart. The investors in this project? The Chinese, with some American support. They are paying the government millions of dollars in “taxes” for the right to do so. An estimated 5,000 jobs will be lost, while only 4,000 new jobs will be created.

Except that The Dragon Mart will, in all likelihood, be importing Chinese workers. As Diego put it, “We are about to have a China Town in Playa.”

Our very presence in these places has a direct influence on the way of life of its inhabitants. Sometimes we bring a healthy change with us, but mostly we superimpose our way of life in an unhealthy fashion.

So, when you come to Playa, or decide you want to visit the horrific Cancun, or other popular tourist destinations like Maui, Bali, or Costa Rica, stay somewhere other than an all-inclusive resort. Remember that your presence has contributed to an insanely rapid and mostly negative change in the local way of life; let that humble you. You will pay less for your stay if you book a 3- or 4-star hotel and eat and drink at local establishments. Trust me, you will still have a great time. The food will be better, the liquor won’t be bottom shelf, the cervezas will be just as cold — you will actually experience a new culture and its people. Most of all, you can proudly know that you didn’t directly contribute to the suffering of the local population whose home you’re calling your vacation playground.

As the editor and chief of TravelMerida.com, I started my 13 years now here in Mexico in Playa del Carmen and after four years there found myself needing to get out of that expensive, money controlled rat trap. I have to say that this is NOT happening here in the state of the Yucatan. Merida and the beach areas still remain the paradise and splendor that a vacation should be all about. The culture, the people and the lifestyle here in the Merida region remains to this day a beautiful experience. 

 

Top Notch Road Racing Comes To Merida Mexico - Autodromo Yucatan

May 21, 2014
This is the new, hopefully F1, destination here in the Yucatan of Mexico. Only a few miles from the beach, this track is already taking shape. 

I heard about this from a friend of mine who lives in the area over a year ago. I just did not believe what I was hearing and so had blown it off. But then on Facebook I see a post from another friend with pics from the site. It is a reality! How awesome is this, to bring top notch road racing to the Yucatan of Mexico. F1, I hear that could be a possib...

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May 2014 Yucatan Fishing Report

May 12, 2014
Here in the Yucatan of Mexico, the fishing has turned to freekin awesome!! With the winter Nortes behind us, the water back in the Ria has cleared up and the big fish have returned. We had clients a few weeks ago and caught 17 sea trout, with myself catching the largest I have ever caught back there, a 6 pound lunker. The coolest part of it, it is with all top water hard plastic lures. The explosions when these fish hit is so exciting!! 



Call us now or visit our booking page to set your dates ...

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How Safe is Mexico?

August 4, 2013

Since ex-president Felipe Calderon started the so-called war on drugs Mexico suffered a blow to its international image mostly due to higher levels of violence and an equal dose of sensationalist media coverage. 

Did you know that traveling to Mexico is safer than traveling to Bahamas, Brazil, or Jamaica? Or that Mexico is twice as safe for Texans than err... Texas itself? Or that Sweden has 61% more drug offences than Mexico? 

In the last few days, a new website called “How Safe Is Mexico?...

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High Speed Rail Planned for Yucatan Peninsula, Linking Mérida and Riviera Maya

July 19, 2013

High speed rail in Mexico is a key priority for the new President of Mexico. In a recent speech outlining a National Tourism Policy for Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto emphasized the need for improved infrastructure in tourist destinations. As an example, Peña Nieto proposed the completion of a rail line across the Yucatán Peninsula linking the colonial city of Mérida to the beach resorts of the Mayan Riviera. The Mexican government plans to spend approximate...


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Mexico to Make It Easier for US Tourists to Visit

June 29, 2013

Mexico City, Mexico - Immigration procedures are being streamlined to make it easier for tourists from the United States to visit Mexico, the Mexican government said.

Mexico will now have "simpler and expedited" procedures for US tourists, the Tourism Secretariat said in a statement.

Tourism Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu discussed the new procedures with United States Customs and Border Protection deputy commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski in Washington, the secretariat said.

The officials discuss...


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Merida, Mexico Real Estate: Variety and Value

April 5, 2013

The city of Merida, Mexico located on the Yucatan Peninsula, is gaining a reputation as a hot spot for international real estate investors. With a culturally rich historic district just ten minutes away from the modern north side of the city, there is something for every investor’s palate.

In Merida, neighborhoods within and bordering on the historic district are gaining attention because of their low prices and colonial architecture.

“Merida’s historic downtown area, which is the second ...


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Local Yucatecan Artists - Galeria Merida - Merida Mexico

March 11, 2013

Galeria Merida

Galeria Merida features contemporary and fine art by local Yucatecan artists. The new location is in a renovated colonial, so several exhibition rooms have very high-ceilings and charming traditional tile floors. Farther back are two connected enclosed patio gardens where outdoor sculptures are exhibited. The very front of the gallery has a boutique featuring smaller art pieces for sale, along with postcards, note cards, small prints, and more.

The gallery is run by partners Paul...


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Mérida, Mexico, Gets First English-Language Newspaper

February 28, 2013
by Glynna Prentice


On your next visit to the expat haven of Mérida in Mexico, you’ll now be able to read the local news in English. Mérida’s first print English-language newspaper starts publication on Tuesday April 12. The print edition of The Yucatán Times will cost 10 pesos (about 83 cents), and you can find it at several locations in the area, including in Mérida’s centro histórico and the Alta Brisa shopping mall, and in  the nearby port of Progreso.

Mérida’s expats have long...


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Yucatan: Hacienda Petac Makes For The Perfect Destination Wedding

February 28, 2013

The luxurious private estate outside Merida, Mexico, Hacienda Petac, offers exclusive wedding services for couples looking for intimate and customized affairs. The packages are designed for small groups offering the hacienda and its 7 bedrooms and a full staff of 23 that handles all details of a wedding of up to 50 people for prices that will not break the bank.

The basic package includes exclusive rental of open areas at the Hacienda for 6 hours, a suite for the bride and groom, rental of the...


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Expatriate Resources

Here you will find valuable information and links to sites related to Expatriate resources and expatriate living.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TravelMerida.com is a Merida Mexico and Yucatan Travel Guide and information portal. The TravelMerida.com Travel Guide is designed to provide travelers valuable information on Merida Mexico and the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Throughout the TravelMerida.com website you will find info for cenotes in and around Merida Mexico, Progreso beach near Merida Mexico, Hotels and Vacation rentals in Progreso, Mayan ruins in and around Merida Mexico, house rentals, real estate in Merida Mexico, Hotels in Merida and restaurants in and around Merida Mexico. Contact information for countries with a Consulate in Merida Mexico is listed in the TravelMerida.com Travel Guide website as well as information on golfing, casinos and other attractions in and around Merida Mexico. Information for Celestun and Hotels in Celestun. If you have visited Merida Mexico or the Yucatan in Mexico and would like to contribute to the TravelMerida.com Travel Blog, please feel free to email your stories and photos to us via the contact page within the TravelMerida.com website. Our Travel Booking Resource page is designed to allow travelers to book all their travel needs from one site to Merida Mexico or the Yucatan in Mexico.

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