Sunday, July 06, 2008


We flew in to Cancun on our way to Sian Ka'an biosphere preserve, where we're based this week. Just hanging out at the airport waiting for the rest of the family, I was struck by the nature of the place.

I've written about Americanized Mexico from my last trip to Cozumel. Big difference between Cozumel and Cancun is that Cozumel grew fairly organically from a small tourist town that served primarily scuba divers, where Cancun was created out of pretty much nothing in the 1970s, specifically to attract American tourists.

As a result, the ”city” of Cancun consists of resorts. Hotels, condos, bars, restaurants, sure. But there is no town in evidence. As we ate our Haagen Dazs ice cream in the wildly over air-conditioned airport terminal while the techno-disco music blared, I was reminded of a terrific song we like by Jim Hoehn called “Can'Tcun,” about a couple trying to plan a vacation where she wants a luxury hotel, and he wants a simple tropical vacation. Watching the tour groups with their enormous luggage, I had to recall the lines:
They measure their fun by the pesos they spend
Montezuma extracts his financial revenge
Gringo history I refuse to repeat.
And then standing outside the car rental agency, I was struck by the environmental impact of the tourism business here. I saw fleets of tour buses idling in parking lots with their air conditioners running to cool the buses while they waited for their passengers to arrive.

I realize our visit isn't exactly zero impact, but all seven of us are driving in one van, and at times we won't leave the place we're staying. Xamach Dos, where we're staying is quite environmentally friendly, using solar panels to generate electricity, only the natural breeze as air conditioning, and minimizing water use. The manager even told us not to bring plastic water bottles (we were bringing reusable metal ones, anyway), as she doesn't want them around.

Xamach Dos is located inside the Sian Ka'an biosphere preserve, 32 km down a bumpy road from the entry of the park, down the road toward Punta Allen. It's a lovely spot. We have two cabaƱas for the week (there are a couple more, but one seems to be under construction, and Margo, the manager, is living in the one the call the tree house right now. Accommodations are somewhat spartan, but hey, we're living on the beach in a biosphere preserve. Can't complain at all!

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