After taking a short vacation around my own country (Mexico) I came to realize there was much I didn’t know about it. I took my boyfriend to see our most famous destinations and in the process we both learned more than we had hoped for.
Mexico gets over 20 million tourists every year, we are known for sunny beaches, good food, tequila and cartels.
However, there is more to Mexico than what most tourist want to see because not everything in Mexico is tequila and tacos, or cartels and crime.
Your Money Doesn’t Stay in the Country
Most tourists come to Mexico and think they’re doing us a favor by leaving their dollars or euros here. However, Mexico rarely sees any of this money since most tourists come to stay in resorts which are in their majority owned by foreigners; Spaniards, Americans, Canadians or Italians.
These tourists stay within the resorts and travel little around the country. If they go to the Mayan Riviera they will most likely travel to the pyramids and maybe one or two Cenotes, that’s it.
Their money then goes mostly to the government, where it simply piles in their pockets before they ship it to a Swiss bank account.
2. Tourism Has a Negative Environmental Impact in Mexico
You might be wondering how can this be possible? I’ll try to explain as briefly as I can.
To satisfy the increasing demand of tourists, the corrupted Mexican government has torn down thousands of acres of mangroves and jungle to allow foreign investors to build more hotels and shopping malls, such is the case of the Dragon Mart in Cancun. A gigantic shopping mall that required the destruction of over 149 acres of “protected” rainforest. This causes irreversible environmental damage.
In the state of Baja California, home to Cabo San Lucas, you can find another protected area being threatened by the vicious claws of tourism demand and investors. Cabo Pulmo National Park is one of the rarest and environmentally sensitive land and sea ecosystems in the western Pacific and is under threat by a Chinese mega-development, where they intend to build shopping malls, hotels, housing, night-clubs, restaurants and everything you can imagine to turn in it another Cabo San Lucas.
If tourists wouldn’t like coming to Mexico so much, investors wouldn’t dream of putting their money here and places like Cabo Pulmo or the mangroves in the Mayan Riviera wouldn’t be threatened.
3. Tourism is Ripping Mexicans from Their Beaches
If it weren’t for the taxi driver that took me to my eco-friendly, Mexican owned hotel I never would have known that beaches along the coast line have been illegally privatized by hoteliers, and with the support of the Mexican government they’ve shut away locals.
Akumal in the Mayan Riviera remained a small fishermen town for many decades until tourists began to want more. Cancun wasn’t enough, nor was Playa del Carmen, so they went further down to reach Akumal.
This small town is slowly being turned into another Cancun, with resorts being built along the coast line and public entrances to the beach being illegally closed down “Only for hotel guests”. Locals like the taxi driver now have to drive miles to get to a part of the coast line that has not yet been tainted by resorts and restaurants.
Akumal is not only being threaten by hotels but by tourists themselves that are nothing more than tourists who have little respect for the land and the sanctity of the environment.
4. Tourism Hasn’t Created Jobs, It Has Created Slavery
Most of the employees in resorts and restaurants make minimum wage which is $3 U.S. dollars a day. It is IMPOSSIBLE to live with that wage!!!
Resorts, restaurants, shopping malls and everything that has to do with the tourism industry has created a series of slaves that have no other option than to work for minimum wage. They can barely make ends-meet.
Tips are where they get their main income from. However, many of these modern day slaves weren’t helped by the tourism industry by being handed down a job, they were forced to become slaves. They were fishermen, cooks, indigenous people that lived from the land.
They had small restaurants and stores where locals would buy from them, and every now and then a few travelers may have too. With the increasing flow of tourists, foreigners came to “steal” the land away and open their franchises and resorts, leaving the locals without jobs and without homes. With no other way out, they now work for others, slaved by the increasing prices in absolutely everything.
In Holbox, real estate prices sky rocketed after it became a touristic destination. Just 3 years ago when it was barely known even by Mexicans you were able to buy a lot of land in front of the ocean for $60,000 USD. After tourists discovered they loved it, prices skyrocketed and are now around $500,000 USD.
5. Mexico is for Foreigners Not for Mexicans
If you’ve ever travelled to some of the touristic destinations in Mexico like Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Playa del Carmen or even Tulum. You’ve noticed prices are set in U.S. Dollars and how Mexico is not cheap.
It’s not cheap because it is designed for your dollars and euros but not for our pesos. 60% of Mexicans live below the poverty line, do you really think they can take a vacation and go to the Mayan Riviera and spend $2 dollars on a coke? EXACTLY.
Most Mexicans have become strangers in their own country, unable to meet the high expenses related to traveling to the most beautiful areas of our country that have been literally kidnapped by foreign currencies and high prices.
The Seaweed Problem IS Very Nasty
It’s been publicized worldwide by The Huffington Post, The Guardian and The Washington Post among other news outlets that the seaweed problem in the Caribbean is a BIG problem. Mexican beaches have been severely affected by this.
The Atlantic Ocean is damaged by climate change and has given way for sargassum to pile up on Caribbean beaches. Barbados, Florida, Tobago and the Mayan Riviera have seen thousands of pounds of seaweed called sargassum piling up on their shores.
Our once pristine clear waters are now brown. Our once white sand is now black and our once smooth waters are now rough.
In an attempt to keep tourists coming, many hotels have been using heavy equipment to clean the shores, however, this is detrimental for the sea turtles that laid eggs on the shore.
7. Don’t Be a Tourist, Be a Traveler
I love hearing different languages in my country, listening to stories of travelers that have come from faraway places to see Mexico. It is a true honor.
If you want to come to Mexico, don’t go to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cabo San Lucas or Tulum. Go to the remote areas, stay in eco-friendly hotels, Mexican owned, and remember to always leave a tip. Eat traditional Mexican food from local restaurants and don´t go to Mc Donald’s!!! Come on you’re in Mexico.
Buy souvenirs from the indigenous tribes that make them by hand, not from the souvenir shops that manufacture them in China.
Respect the land, the air and the water. Don’t pollute it with your sunscreen, wear a hat, the locals make beautiful ones. Don’t pollute our beaches and water with your cigarette butts, smoke locally grown weed, it’s less harmful and it doesn’t have a butt. Don´t pollute the sound of the wind and the songs of the birds with your loud music, listen to the sound of nature and don´t act like you’re doing us a favor by coming here, you’re not.
Get to know our traditions, our landscapes, our culture, our poems and our ruins. They are also yours you know, we all DO live in the same planet.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com and The Guardian (Seaweed in Cancun)