`Mayan Riviera' Off-Limits to Mayas
By The Associated Press
(AP) -- Offering snorkeling and swimming amid a
jungle setting, X-Caret is the most popular theme park along the stretch of
Caribbean known as the Mayan Riviera. But the only Maya tourists are
likely to find there is Ezequiel Chan Noh.
former gum-tree tapper is paid to sit in a hut in a
``reconstructed'' Maya village in a forgotten corner of the park -- a mostly
fabricated series of rivers, lagoons and caves meant to represent the
natural state of the area.
Chan Noh spends
his day weaving baskets as the occasional tourist
stumbles upon the ``village,'' usually while looking for the park exit.
``I worked cutting
mahogany until the trees ran out,'' Chan Noh said. ``I
tapped gum trees, now that's all gone.''
a time when little money changed hands in the area, and
most Mayas led self-sufficient lives fishing or farming.
``Now, so much is bought, nothing is made,'' Chan Noh said.
The Mayas also
once had a history of defending their land: They fought
one of the last major Indian rebellions on the continent, The Caste War,
which wasn't crushed on the Caribbean coast until the early 1900s.
Still, Chan Noh
said he's happy to have the relatively undemanding job at
the theme park.
Many other Mayas
on the Mayan Riviera are not as lucky: They live
crowded into construction camps 25 miles to the north.
There, 50 men
or more are squeezed into each 20-foot-by-80-foot,
unventilated tarpaper shack, in hammocks so pressed together they don't
have room to swing, with one toilet for every 30 men.
Most are brought
from neighboring Maya states like Yucatan to live in the
camps for as long as two years, while they work in the building boom that
tourism has brought to this sunny stretch of Mexico.
Most of the workers
still speak a Maya language, and their ancestors
ruled the area before the arrival of the Spanish.
But their $5-a-day
wages don't leave enough to pay the $39 entry fee for
X-Caret, and security guards keep them from entering the beaches where
the temples their ancestors built still sit.
these poorly made camps, and bring people in to work in
subhuman conditions, and the cost to the company is almost zero,'' said
Tulio Arroyo, a member of the Cancun activist group Alianza Civica.
In the camp,
few people were willing to talk as two security guards
waved residents away.
``It's a hard
life,'' construction worker Pedro Peech said before he
spotted the guards and fell silent.