Yucatan, Mexico:building the dream resort
you can tell from the expression on their faces that you need to explain further. Rachael has been living and working in various parts of Mexico for almost five years, and just happens to currently find herself in the Yucatan, near Cancun, selling residential memberships at the Moon Palace Hotel, a favourite haunt with well-healed Americans. A judicious reduction offered to staff relatives means that Jenny and I can afford to stay in this 5* hotel, where the Climate Change Conference took place before Christmas. The hotel is, in fact, a complete resort with over 2,500 rooms, 14 restaurants and a golf course. If you want, you can eat and drink 10,000 calories a day and slumber it off by one of its 10 swimming pools, or you can eat and drink sensibly, ‘work out’ regularly in the gym or walk/jog along the beach, and still probably gain weight. It’s all about pampering to your every need, even though your actual needs are very few.
The Yucatan, until about 40 years ago, was a remote corner of this country that nobody ever visited, primarily because there were no surfaced roads and it was a long way from anywhere. In fact, during its recent history, it was easier to get to it by sea from the USA, so much so that during the process of Mexico gaining its independence from Spain, this peninsula applied to become a federal state of the USA.
In the post-Olympic phase in 1968, after the games had been held in Mexico City, the idea was launched to develop a premier holiday resort on the Carribbean to match the success of Acapulco on the Pacific Coast. This was aided and abetted by a huge grant from the IMF, and so began the building of hundreds of hotels along a 100km stretch of the coast, in an area that had a very small indigenous population. To service this massive expansion, workers have moved from all parts of Mexico, attracted by the ready availability of work, settling into a community (now called Cancun) that has grown to over 600,000 inhabitants. If you like the sheer hedonism of the all-inclusive holiday resort atmosphere that caters for your every whim, you will love it, if not…………………… stay well away!!!!
Having visited a couple of Mayan sites in Belize, I was longing to visit the premier of all Mayan temples at Chichen Itza, now voted as one of the “Seven New Wonders of the world”. It is astonishing to learn of the wisdom of this much undervalued indigenous race, and to discover the sophistication of their knowledge of astronomy and mathematics. Sadly, so much of what we know of the ancient Maya is still conjectural, in the absence of historical evidence and documentation. With the advent of the Spanish invaders and the imposition of the Catholic faith, all the available writings were destroyed, and the succeeding process of domination and conversion almost annihilated all vestiges of this rich civilization.
the resulting advent of vendors and trinket-sellers, it is still an astonishing place. The structures and temples so assiduously designed to reflect their knowledge of astronomy and the passage of time, the ball-games that so frequently resulted in human sacrifice, the acoustic subtlety of the environment that produces echoes of astonishing resonance……………….. and they did all of this without the use of metal tools, beasts of burden and the wheel. It is hard to reconcile all of this mature history sharing the same territory with the huge holiday empire that has sprouted along the coast.
Cenotes. The Yucatan has no rivers above ground, but underneath the limestone layer there are
vast reserves of water that flow along immense underground cave systems, some of them so big that they are referred to as ‘cathedrals’. Some of these caves have been opened up to reveal ‘cenotes’ which, once used by the Maya for their drinking water, are now favourite spots for fresh water bathing. They say that there are some 4000 such cenotes throughout the Yucatan peninsula. An absolute magnet for cavers and fresh-water bathers.
Robert Burns. How disturbing it was to find that the immortal memory of the Bard, on January 25th, did not even register on any of the programmes of activities along this coast. Surely there must have been some Americans of Scottish descent, somewhere, who were secretly piping in and addressing the haggis, opening up its ‘gushing entrails’ and enjoying the ‘warm, reeking rich’ scent of its innards. Anyway, to rectify any absence of this immensely important event, Jenny and I did our little bit under the ‘most trying of circumstances’. Jenny sang “John Anderson my jo” and I addressed a couple of chocolate-coated strawberries, having already read the complete works of the Bard while doing lengths of the pool. How decadent is that!!