Bright yellow police tape fluttered in the breeze outside a restaurant just off the main strip in the Mexican resort town of Tulum, as the lights of a nearby police truck flashed blue and red.
Troops in camouflage fatigues stood guard outside the deserted late-night eatery La Malquerida, “The Unloved” – the site of a gangland shooting that killed two female tourists and wounded another three holidaymakers.
Anjali Ryot, an Indian travel blogger who lived in California and was on holiday celebrating her birthday, and German tourist Jennifer Henzold, died in the 20 October attack that is believed to have been launched by one of several local crime groups in an attempt to assert control over the area’s drug and extortion rackets.
The attack made headlines around the world. But within days, the scene on Centaura Sur Street was back to normal: on a recent evening, restaurants were packed and the aromatic smell of the copal incense burned by street traders filled the air.
Most tourists flocking to the Mayan Riviera are unaware that they are holidaying on a battlefield, said one local worker. “They’re chilling, but they’re in the middle of a war,” he said.
The violence is not restricted to Tulum. Last month, guests at a resort 100km up the coast near Cancún rushed for cover after masked gunmen stormed a hotel beach by boat and opened fire, killing two suspected rivals.
The two attacks are just the latest in a string of high-profile incidents along the Mayan Riviera that have put the crown jewel of the country’s tourism industry on edge.
Tourists still flock to Tulum, drawn by its yoga retreats and Instagram-friendly white sand beaches and ancient Mayan ruins. The town, which in 2017 declared itself the world yoga capital, is also a fixture on the global DJ circuit.
But the violence has prompted fears that it may follow the path Acapulco – a once-glamorous resort town now overwhelmed by drug violence.
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