Evictions raise anxiety in usually laid-back Tulum
Conde Nast Traveler magazine reports tourists and expats in Tulum are confused by a recent series of evictions and related events. Here is the article:
For more than 20 years, Tulum, one of the most laid-back and gorgeous spots along Mexico’s Riviera Maya, has struggled with a dark secret—a secret that bared its ugly teeth again just last week. Mexico News Daily reported that “early on Friday morning, moving trucks, about 500 private security guards, and Tulum municipal police officers arrived in the town’s Punta Piedra zone to carry out evictions of 16 hotels and restaurants, shops, homes and undeveloped pieces of land. Those who were to be dispossessed tried to resist the officials, who in turn shot firearms into the air and used tear gas to force them out.”
Hotels were sacked and guests kicked out. Photos on Instagram show one of the area’s hottest, Coqui Coqui, in shambles; its own account simply states that it has “temporarily moved to the jungle in Coba!” (a sister property), and Twitter is abuzz with users supporting the hashtag #freecoquicoqui.
What’s behind all of this? Land. And it’s complicated. Mexican law does not allow foreigners to own oceanfront property outright—a third party or financial institution is required to be landlord. In this case, Mexico News Daily explains that “the evictions were in response to an alleged breach of an oral lease contract between business owners and the municipality and were supposedly the subject of a judicial order” decreed in the nearby Civil Court of Playa del Carmen. Vague details insinuate unpaid rent. The word “supposedly” is key here.
Riviera Maya News quotes a worker from Villa las Estrellas as saying, “We have not been allowed to see the eviction order.” A property evacuee, Guillermo Roman Millan added, “Here, uncertainty is what you get. No notice of the procedure. Everything is done behind a smokescreen and it is difficult. I am a tenant and there are many false rumors and cover-ups of the actual situation.” Unfortunately, as with many business dealings around the world pertaining to claiming pieces of paradise, an “oral lease contract” can mean everything, anything, or nothing, and land sales are sometimes sealed with bribes accompanied by false documents. Scratch the surface further and the situation in Tulum is even darker, allegedly involving powerful families and government officials. There are further tremors of more action to come. But among the exempt is Ahau Tulum, owned by Roberto Palazuelos, president of the Tulum Hotel Association.
Sightings of machetes, hastily erected barbed wire fences, and empty properties have left many along and near the two-mile stretch of beach understandably scared and confused. Some have reported upwards of 300 tourists turfed out in one fell swoop (past raids in 2014, 2009, and 2008 were much smaller).
Locals, especially those who rely heavily on the tourism industry, have taken to social media with one Facebook profile containing more than a dozen photographs of an impromptu, peaceful march through the center of town last Sunday, with demonstrators holding signs reading: Queremos un pueblo mágico sin violencia! (We want a magical town without violence!)
It saddens us to see a corner of the world we’ve grown so fond of administered this way. Hartwood restaurant, catty-corner to Coqui Coqui, appears to have survived. With magnificent Mayan ruins to the north and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere due south, tiny Tulum has thus far managed to walk a fine line between development and preservation. However, more than a few feel the place has become “Brooklyn-by-the-Beach.” Is it little wonder then that there’s a new war on for precious real estate?
Some of the establishments purportedly affected are: Hotel Morena del Mar, Villa las Estrellas, Hotel Iguana Blue, Hotel Uno Astrolodge, Cabañas El Caracol, Hotel Azúcar, Bahlam, Hotel Parayso, Coqui Coqui, Casa Privada Cocodrilo, Hotel Latente Rose, Hotel Pico Beach, Hotel Ak’iin, Casa Géminis, Hotel Samasati, Belha, Shambala Petit, and Restaurant El Hongo.