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Tulum, Mexico: Supermodels and Roosters

Tulum, Mexico is an odd place. Actually, three places share the name: “Tulum”; the pueblo or city, the hotel zone approximately three kilometers away from the city, and the archaeological site.

This is my second time here in two weeks and I came back mainly drawn by the perfect beach; crystal clear, warm blue waters and fine powdery white sand. The famous Corona commercial was filmed here so you get the idea.

Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, Mexico

My best friend was here ten years ago and told me there was nothing here but two shacks selling chicken.  What a difference a decade makes.  Now, you find a small city with every type of restaurant imaginable from Thai to Italian, rental car agencies, real estate offices, four banks, bike lanes, highways, spas and yoga studios. And celebrities. This month is was Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Reese Witherspoon.

Sitting outside last night enjoying a panini sandwich made by expat Argentineans, I was fascinated by the mix of people. Many are young, white. twenty-somethings with required guitar on the back, the stench of patchouli, the clothes from India, woven bracelets to sell, dreadlocked blonde hair and deeply tanned skin. Basically the crowd at a Dead show (although the Dead were literally dead when these kids were born). Ha!

Another group includes the American expats.  These types are identified by outfit: women wearing the perfect purse that matches their sundress and pedicure or worse yet silverback gorillas of men with Panama hats. No doubt a collection of Jimmy Buffet CDs at home.  New developments are in progress all over with promises of “forever paradise” luxury living. Plans for a Tulum airport are already established with groundbreaking to take place this year. It is expected to handle 3 million passengers a year. Real estate prices have skyrocketed with condos starting at $120,000 US or 1,500,000 MXN. When you consider that the average salary in Mexico (2012) was 35,659 MXN, it is clear these homes are not for Mexicans.

Then there are the supermodels. Fortunately, I found this article a few weeks ago to explain the phenomenon I was observing, otherwise I might have thought I was entering another dimension last night as I saw the most “beautiful” people I have ever seen, one after another, like it was normal or something.  Men and women, who looked like they stepped out of the pages of Vogue, and no-doubt with the dust of Paris, Milan, and New York City still in their fleshy crevices, walked by.  I felt like a horrible beast in comparison.   I was ready to go hide in a tower.

And then the ordinary Mexican people, little children running down new streets, men riding old bikes, the strolling candy sellers, the drunk man begging from the group of bleach-blonde older women from Dallas, the mothers wearing tight jeans with rhinestone pockets and babies in hand, the taxi drivers making a fortune by Mexican standards, the hotel workers and maids on their way home, the man babbling to himself with soiled clothes.

What a mix.

Early this morning I heard the sound of roosters. For a minute I was in a quaint, unspoiled village in Mexico. Then I woke up.

What will Tulum be like in another 10 years?  I’ll ponder that question as I relax on the beach, myself a part of the change that seems so ugly. And so hard to resist.


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