Waiting for the end of the world (1)

The castle at Tulum is the main archeological attraction

TULUM, MEXICO -- The Yucatan is filled with Americans and Europeans who have come for the Dec. 21 end of the Mayan Long Count calendar and/or the end of 2012 next week, and those looking to spend time in paradise before the end have come to Tulum.

Boca Paila Road runs along about 10 miles of pristine Carribean beaches, lined with lodging ranging from camping  and small affordable cabañas (our thatched roof spot at Pico Beach, booked through Airbnb, is amazing) to expensive luxury hotels, all nestled into verdant tropical foliage.

On south end is the biosphere and biggest cenotes (little lagoons with underwater caves), and on the north is the main Mayan temple and archaeological site in the area, a well-preserved coastal fortress crawling with visitors.

Bay Area residents are well-represented on the beaches of Tulum, and most that we've talked to a headed to the Synthesis 2012 Festival in Chichen Itza today or tomorrow. I'm still not sure what to expect from the scene there, but I'm excited to find out to report back tomorrow when the festival begins.


It's the end of the wor... k week! Yay!

One problem with this whole thing about it being the end of the world on Dec 21st, is that the world presumably has to end on the same day for everyone. For instance, it's already the 21st in China. So does the world end now (on the 20th for us), or does it end tomorrow on the 21st? But then it will already be the 22nd in other parts of the world.

There actually is one possibility to resolve this logistical nightmare. A gamma ray burst could start on the 21st at the other end of the world, and by the time it gets around to frying us here, it will be the 21st here. That way, the world ends on the same day for everyone. But for that to happen it should get started really soon. Short of that, I don't know how the end of the world can come on the 21st for everyone.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

Idiot. Gamma rays travel at the speed of light.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

So the scenario is admittedly far-fetched, but in that far-fetched scenario it doesn't matter the speed they travel at. Since they won't penetrate to the other side of the earth, only the surface area facing the gamma ray burst would be affected. If the burst lasts 24 hours or more, the entire surface area of the earth would be fried, as the earth turns.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

He's waiting in good faith for a new world order to start on 12/22 with free pot for everyone, peace and love busting out all over, and we all wear flowers in our hair singing Kumbaya.

He's gonna be so pissed when he wakes up the next day and it's still the same ol' same ol'.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

Gamma rays? Wouldn't that make us all like The Incredible Hulk?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

While you are having your fun, please remember that about half of Mexico's population lives below the poverty line. Mexico's minimum wage is about 60 pesos ($4.60) per day. About one-fifth of Mexican children currently suffer from malnutrition.

The globalization of Mexican agriculture has led to the impoverishment of Mexico's rural population. Cargill (aka the “corn coyote”) holds a virtual monopoly over the marketing of Mexican corn. Hence, the price of corn tortillas, a staple of the Mexican diet, has been held hostage by the speculators in the world’s commodity markets. In December 13, 2011, within a single day, tortilla prices rose from 8 to 12 pesos in Mexico City and to 13 to 15 pesos in other districts.

A looming food crisis is developing in Mexico due to recent droughts and rising food prices fueled by speculation. In 2011 alone, Mexico lost one million hectares of food crops, along with 42,000 head of cattle. Meanwhile, American and European expats are driving the costs of housing and food out of reach for the average Mexican. Finally, within the next year or so, Mexico could face food riots along with the spread of starvation and its consequences (societal destabilization?).

So, enjoy your "affordable cabaña", but not at the expense of the people around you.

Posted by Ana on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

He should be able to take a beach vaca without feeling guilt just because everyone there isn't as fat and happy as we are lucky enough to be.

Chill, Ana, and lighten up.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

Thanks for the buzzkill, Ana. You must be a riot at parties.

Posted by Chromefields on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 9:59 am

What is the difference between gringo tourists/ex-pats and the techies who are driving low income people/ families out of SF? Not much, really.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 11:42 am

because putting money in the economy is always bad.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 11:57 am


""Boca Paila Road runs along about 10 miles of pristine Carribean beaches, lined with lodging ranging from camping and small affordable cabañas (our thatched roof spot at Pico Beach, booked through Airbnb, is amazing) to expensive luxury hotels.""

The first time I hitchiked through there (1981, on a hitchiking trip to Buenos Aires) that road was empty

Posted by Troll the XIV on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

The birthrate in Mexico has fallen to 2.1. The middle class is growing.

Yes, you read about cartels, etc., But the fact is, the Mexican middle class is growing whilst it is shrinking in the EEUU. Mexicans in the US are now emigrating home in larger numbers than they are immigrating to the US.

The Mexican future is bright.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

We just need to stop their problems becoming our problems. Build that fence.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

Remember, newage rhymes with sewage.

The Yucatan is booming, Playa del Carmen was the fastest growing city in Mexico in the 2000s. There is virtually no poverty in the Yucatan when compared to other parts of Mexico.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

"Many tourists, even many expats who live here full or part time, would be astounded by the endemic poverty which exists in the state of Yucatán. We're but a half day's drive from the magnificent Mexican Riviera Maya, from famous resorts like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Isla Mujeres, where money is lavishly spent without the slightest awareness of how most people in this region struggle daily."

"A Mexican national institute recently reported that almost half the population of the Yucatán - 47.9%, to be exact - lives at or below the official government poverty line. Of those, 191,000 live in the most dire conditions of poverty -- they are the poorest of the poor. Poverty in Yucatán has increased significantly since 2008. During roughly the same time frame, the Yucatán's state indebtedness increased dramatically, from $25 million USD in 2007 to an estimated $750 million USD today. It doesn't appear that much of that huge increase in public debt was the result of efforts to eradicate or even reduce severe poverty in the countryside."


Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 11:32 am

Yucatan state is not "the Yucatan" which consists of Yucatan state in the north 1/3, Campeche on the west and Quintana Roo on the east as well.

Eyeballing it, I'd wager that QR provides for 80% of the economic activity in the Yucatan and that is where Steven is staying.

The state of Yucatan, like Chiapas, has always been a conservative stronghold maintained by force and intimidation, it never saw the beneficial results of the revolution of 1917 like most of the rest of Mexico.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 11:52 am

It certainly didn't inherit that "beneficial result of the 1917 revolution."

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

Here's some links that makes my point:


And here are the state rankings and equivalencies:


Note that compared to the Mexican "Pacific Riviera," (with the exception of Jalisco moderated by Mexico's LA, Guadalajara) the states on the peninsula are far and beyond much more prosperous and poverty is lower.

And a window into corruption:


Note how Yucatan is the exception in all instances on the peninsula, the legacy of the brutality that was required for the subjugation of the Mayan inhabitants into the henequen plantations. Quintana Roo was one of the last two states admitted to the union along with tourist dominated Baja California Sur.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

Here’s an idea Steven. Why don’t you do an article on the Mayan people, explaining why nearly six in 10 indigenous children suffer from chronic malnutrition? Or how the infant mortality rate has hit 40 per 1,000 live births, according to the UN Development Program (UNDP). Explain why 11.7 million Mexicans , mostly indigenous, have no access to health care and education, and don't earn enough to purchase the minimum food needed for daily sustenance. And don't neglect to tell mention the U.S. role in that.

Then take us back in history a bit, and tell us about the 600 massacres of indigenous communities which were recorded between 1960-1996 as tens of thousands of Mayans sought refuge in southern Mexico from the brutal counter-insurgency during Guatemala’s civil war. And tell how, at present, areas that are home to Mexico’s indigenous peoples have seen an influx of troops as part of the government’s war on drugs.

You’re a journalist, Steven. Are you going to report on a bunch of fat, spoiled and overly pampered gringos using Mexico as their playground. Or are you planning to do the job of a progressive journalist by giving us the real story about the Mayan people? Just wondering.

Posted by Ana on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

world you must live in.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

He is obviously not a true Progressive.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

I hope a lot. I appreciate the information she is sharing about conditions in Mexico.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 12:58 pm
Posted by matlock on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

What's not cool is Ana telling us where we should and should not vacation based on her skewed view of what is politically correct.

If ana cared that much about the indigenous people suffering there, she would be there, and not posting to an anonymous blog from the comfort of her office job.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

There are ways for a gringo to tread lightly and visit Mexico and there are ways to be a pompous ass about it. I've found that treading lightly and treating people with respect opens the kinds of doors that bridge the gap of economic privilege through mutual humanization.

The fact is that Qunitana Roo was very sparsely populated prior to the development of Cancun. In the almost two decades since NAFTA, the whole coastline has been privatized and commercialized. It really makes you wonder why they hate the landscape so much that they have to recreate in the mold of something very different.

Yucatan, again, is a special case that has yet to begin shaking off of centuries of intentional impoverishment and separation of people from their lands. The Mayans did not go down for colonization easily and the descendents of the Spaniards never forgot that. Ditto for Chiapas and Oaxaca.

The reason why Mexico does not have democratic presidential elections is because the CIA will not tolerate anything but a pro-corporate regime there. US economic and political power and its support for corruption there is what makes poverty persistent and keeps land reform from happening.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 10:43 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2012 @ 7:05 am

who visits Mexico in any way other that her narrow definition of what is deemed politically correct.

Apparently, Americans cannot take cheap vacations because that poisons the local economy. So I guess we'll just all have to go to $300 a night resorts in Hawaii just so that we're not "exploiting2 the locals.

Ana gives travel a bad name.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

I appreciate the issues you raise, Ana, and I've been covering such social and economic justice issues throughout by 21-year newspaper career. In fact, much of what you focus on is the subtext for my cover story that preceded this trip, http://www.sfbg.com/2012/12/18/end-world-we-know-it, which discussed the necessity of moving to economic and political systems based on cooperation instead of just competition. Also on my trip, I covered an instance of Californians cooperating with the indiginous Mayans: http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2012/12/26/synthesis-2012-festival-marks-ma.... But it's true that the stories I wrote are different than the focus that you wanted, and that's because I was focused on seizing an opporunity for political transformation (one that would benefit poor people around the world who suffer most from the inequities and externalities of capitalism) rather than profiling the Mayan people and the plight of indiginous people. There are many stories to tell in the big wide world, and I'll keep working my way through them, increasingly with a focus on solutions rather than problems. And I welcome your feedback along the way.

Posted by steven on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 11:19 am

Ana has made some very good points. Wages are low and the cost of living has driven many local residents far away from tourist areas - conditions the average tourist will never see.

When traveling to Mexico (or many parts of the world, for that matter), a considerate tourist will be mindful of local living conditions and take steps to contribute kindness, compassion and money whenever possible.

The money you spend for hotels, liquor and very often the "tips included" services never makes its way to the staff who greet you with a smile. If you enjoy your stay, remember it's a very hard life that most people endure and a nice $100 tip put directly in the hands of a person can make a world of difference, and perhaps help feed the family for a month. It will make you feel good too.

As Americans, we often take for granted the worker protection rights enjoyed in our country. Many Mexicanos go for weeks and even months without being paid, but if they want to keep their jobs, they have to endure these injustices. Work and a respectful daily routine can be hard to come by and protective union groups are crushed by industry before they can get organized.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

then obviously local wages will be low, because it is much cheaper to live there.

I will tip according to local custom, but I'm there for a vacation, not as part of the nation's foreign aid program.

We have enough problems here without guilting out well-intended tourists from enjoying themselves overseas. You and Ana are killjoys. Inappropriate.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

Steven Jones with your unfunny attempts at humorous commentary. Aren't you the guy who broke from local custom to reduce his tips to San Francisco food service workers because of Healthy San Francisco?

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

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