Posted by: ecodestination | July 30, 2008

Free ride

I just came across this post on the Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree. It starts with some quotes from an online article discussing the Tulum situation, and continues with the commentaries on each quote:

“Hotel owners argue they’ve been there for up to two decades without problems, and their businesses are built around protecting the environment.”
Hotel owners have had a free ride for 20 years and are now paying the price-they knew this was coming-have known for years in fact.”Roberto Palazuelos, a Mexican soap opera actor and president of the Tulum Hotel Owners Association, says the federal government’s paperwork to create the protected area in the 1980s was never done correctly. His Hotel Diamante K is among the five that have been closed.”
That’s what his lawyer is telling him-and will keep telling him as long as he’s being paid.“I think they want to take away the land and divide it between themselves,” he said.
If only life were so simple.

“The state government issued the land titles and says they are valid. Tourism officials have been visiting the hotels this week and supporting their fight to keep their land.”
State Govt officials need wages too and can be bought more easily than Federal ones-thus the offers of ‘friendly cooperation’

“In the meantime, urban refugees seeking peace and quiet in Mexico’s jungle squeeze in one last spa treatment and wonder when the soldiers will return.”
They can take their $500/night and find another pseudo paradise-Yelapa awaits…..

Okay, so whoever wrote this (hardnosethehighway) has absolutely no clue (with all due respect) about the property situation in Tulum. Aside from the fact that most lots on the Tulum beach have at least two or more owners (yes, with title and all), there’s the ejido situation (in the South part of the hotel zone, where the government both gave the land to indigenous groups (ejido) and also sold the same land as private property), there’s this current problem in the Northern part of the hotel zone, near the archaeological site: the government both issued land titles and declared the same property as a national park.

So the question is: who’s right here? Well, it’s both a national park and private property, so technically both sides are right. It’s up to the Mexican judicial system to figure out what to do here, and the hotels are obviously appealing the foreclosure. So saying the hotels have had a “free ride” for years is quite inaccurate. The hotel owners (Roberto Palazuelos included) purchased property with a title. These same property owners have been paying property tax and federal zone taxes (for use of the beach) for years. They’re hardly squatters.

Should they have done a little more research before purchasing? Maybe, but there are few areas in Mexico that have the complex land issues that Tulum and the surrounding area have. Tulum is located within Quintana Roo, Mexico’s youngest state. And it’s not always easy to determine the entire situation of each property: with multiple titles and the government doing whatever it feels like (ejido/park/titles), sometimes the status of land is totally unclear.

If the land is actually used as a national park and is duly protected by the government, a decision to favor the park might be in the best interest for the area, ecologically speaking. But many in the area fear that it’s just an excuse by the government to take over the land, and then re-sell it yet again to a major developer. Which, of course, would be an eco disaster and would change forever the peaceful eco paradise that Tulum has been until now.



  1. The Federal Govt has control of the ocean frontage. This is like a battle between Alabama and the US Govt. Federal entities ultimately
    have the leverage. Title in this area is very, very complex — it is critical to do proper due diligence prior to purchase (local, state, federal). If you cannot get the proper title endorsements (or title insurance, which is available), don’t buy the land… go elsewhere.
    Ejido issues are not necessarily only indigenous, they are property collectives, prevalent throughout the country and not tied to ethnicity.
    In many, many instances, these title disputes go back to a buyer that did not spend enough money on title diligence (in these cases thousands of dollars), prior to acquisition (lease or purchase)….they will pay thousands for designer colors, sheets, pillows, etc. but not fees for title research. Same with Punta Banda, Ensenada on the west coast.

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