An expanding resort: Cancun looks forward but honors its past.Ashaman knelt before the rustic altar decorated in palm fronds, crossed himself and began chanting in Maya. The only light came from flickering candles casting a soft glow on his dark features.
We were standing in a semi-circle next to a stone temple at the Ruinas del Rey Del Rey may refer to:
Such ceremonies are traditionally very closed affairs, carried out in the privacy of the home, but one man's efforts brought it to the ruins.
Eduardo Paniagua, head of the Cancun chapter of the Mexican Association of Travel Agents, made many visits to a rural Maya community to obtain permission from the elders to not only perform the ritual, but also open it to the public.
Before his request was accepted, the shaman had to "consult" with the Lords of the Underworld and Paniagua had to go through several purification rituals. With a little bit of luck, he also received permission from the National Institute of Anthropology and History The National Institute of Anthropology and History (Spanish: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH)) is a federal government bureau established in 1939 to guarantee the research, preservation, protection, and promotion of the prehistoric, (INAH INAH Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (Spanish: National Institute of Anthropology and History, Mexico)
INAH I Need A Hug ) in a record time of two days to hold the ceremony at the ruins, a condition demanded of him by the shaman.
The goal was to introduce Maya customs to more people outside the Maya community in Cancun, Paniagua said. "I want this to become an annual event and open it to more tourists."
Polishing Its Image
Cancun, Mexico's most popular tourist destination A tourist destination is a city, town or other area the economy of which is dependent to a significant extent on the revenues accruing from tourism.
It may contain one or more tourist attractions or visitor attractions and possibly some "tourist traps". , draws over 3 million visitors annually to its sugar-spun sand beaches and turquoise waters.
The Caribbean hot spot is recharging its image at present, with more activities related to its Maya roots.
The Day of the Dead, which coincides with the Catholic feast days of All Souls and All Saints All´ Saints`
1. The first day of November, called, also, Allhallows or Hallowmas; a feast day kept in honor of all the saints; also, the season of this festival. days in early November, is a pure example of the fusion of Maya pre-Hispanic and Christian beliefs, so common in Mexico after the Spanish Conquest. In fact, the celebration originated with the Maya, who, thousands of years ago, used to honor their dead at the end of November in much the same way they do today. And what Paniagua and others working in the tourism industry hope for is to complement Cancun's "fun in the sun" ambience with more attention to its ancient culture. As Ana Mari Irabien, public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most director for the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau, commented, "Cancun is trying to go back to its Maya roots more all the time."
And well it should, since the Maya temples a short distance from the resort were visitor attractions well before Cancun was even a speck on a map.
Birth Of A Resort
Four decades ago, Cancun was an island full of scrubby scrub·by
adj. scrub·bi·er, scrub·bi·est
1. Covered with or consisting of scrub or underbrush.
2. Straggly or stunted.
3. Paltry or shabby; wretched. terrain occupied by 12 fishing families. Probably full of vipers, too, as its name in Maya translates to "nest of snakes." Then the government stepped in with a team of technocrats and pinpointed Cancun for the next big thing in tourism.
Ten years later, it had two hotels and dozens of transplanted palm trees that were slowly adapting to Cancun's environment. Fonatur, the government agency in charge of planned vacation resorts including this one, forged ahead to develop it.
The region was dirt poor and needed a shot in the arm to create more jobs and a more sustainable industry than the duty-free shops lining the streets of Chetumal, the capital city of the state hundreds of miles south.
Slow at first, the project finally paid off with a surge of hotel building a decade later when such international chains as Marriott, Sheraton and Inter-Continental put up hotels alongside Mexico's own Camino Reals, Fiesta Americanas and Calindas.
Today, those two first hotels have grown to 27,000 hotel rooms and the resort pulls in more than US$2 billion in tourism-generated revenue, making it the most visited destination as well as the most profitable in the country. And the population is a staggering 500,000 inhabitants
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Now Cancun's reach goes beyond its 14-mile long boundaries. With the explosion of growth on the 70-mile stretch of coast south of it along the Riviera Maya "Riviera Maya" is a tourism district following the highway 307 of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It historically started at Playa del Carmen and ended at Tulum pueblo, though the towns of Puerto Morelos to the north of Playa del Carmen and Felipe Carrillo Puerto inland are both currently , Cancun has been enhancing it's own visitor options by becoming a hub for travel to the Riviera Maya.
It no longer feels threatened by the popularity of the Riviera Maya, which has 23,000 hotel rooms so far, many of which enjoy higher occupancy numbers than Cancun hotels. Rather than compete with it, it has incorporated such high-profile attractions as the ruins at Tulum and Coba, the town of Playa del Carmen Playa del Carmen is a city on the coast of the Caribbean Sea in the north east of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, located at 20.62° North, 87.07° West. The city is the seat of the Solidaridad municipality. , jungle excursions to Maya villages and an endless number of virgin beaches and cenotes (freshwater underground rivers) for swimming and diving into its own travel programs.
And the Riviera Maya, which has more living Maya culture than Cancun, has made it a point to integrate it into more of its tourism agendas.
Take Xcaret, for example. A 250-acre eco-archaeological theme park, one of this locale's recent additions is a cemetery. Designed by one of the park's founders, Miguel Quintana, the inauguration was a gala affair, definitely befitting be·fit·ting
Appropriate; suitable; proper.
Adj. 1. a Day of the Dead celebration. Part of the park's permanent exhibit called the Maya Village, the cemetery, built on a hillside with 12 different levels, is colorful and playful with humorous epithets at the gravesides. It will eventually be used as an actual resting place for cremations with the niches already in place.
"The new cemetery is something unique," Iliana Rodriguez, public relations director for Xcaret, said, "There's no place where a cemetery is a year-round attraction. We want to show visitors the culture around death--that Mexicans make fun of death. Having a cemetery as part of the Maya Village will introduce the visitor to Maya culture.
"Mexicans enjoy life," she continued. "They can even enjoy death. It enriches the experience of visitors when they get in contact with Mexican culture where you get closer to understanding the vision of death. A vacation nowadays is an experience apart from sand and sea."
Playing up Mexican as well as Maya culture, expansion plans at Xcaret call for a typical cantina can·ti·na
n. Southwestern U.S.
A bar that serves liquor.
[Spanish, canteen, from Italian, wine cellar.] to be built across the street from the cemetery with a sign characteristic of Mexican humor, saying, "We are better here than the guys in front of us."
The cemetery will have a sign posted that says, "We now have the guys here that were having fun across the way." A replica of a 19th century henequen henequen (hĕn`əkĭn): see sisal hemp. (sisal) hacienda with a factory showing how rope is made is also an upcoming project.
Sharing The Wealth
Besides the Riviera Maya, Cancun is surrounded by much older settlements--islands no more than a half-hour away by boat--that have hundreds of years of history behind them, including an era of buccaneers Buccaneers can refer to:
Isla Mujeres Isla Mujeres is the name of a small island, as well as the town on that island, a short distance off the coast of the northeast of the Yucatán Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea. Isla Mujeres is also one of the eight municipalities of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. , for example, is smaller than Cancun, but it is the Mexican Caribbean's prime spot for snorkeling.
Garrafon National Park, with over 21,000 acres of coral reefs coral reefs, limestone formations produced by living organisms, found in shallow, tropical marine waters. In most reefs, the predominant organisms are stony corals, colonial cnidarians that secrete an exoskeleton of calcium carbonate (limestone). , attracts thousands of visitors annually, who also have access to a zip line, pools, hammocks, handicrafts shops and visits to the remains of a Maya temple to the goddess Ixchel on a windy bluff overlooking the reefs.
A tiny museum to the 19th century pirate, Mundaca, who took up residence on the island when his slave trading days were over, is also on the premises, as are replicas of the brightly colored wooden houses that used to be common on the island.
Downtown Isla Mujeres, which still has the feel of a fishing village, is great for shopping, renting a motorbike for touring the island or just hanging out.
Cozumel, which has 85 percent of the region's dive spots, is surrounded by nearly 30,000 acres of underwater reefs comprising a barrier reef barrier reef
A long, narrow ridge of coral or rock parallel to and relatively near a coastline, separated from the coastline by a lagoon too deep for coral growth. that flanks the coast of Quintana Roo Quintana Roo (kēntä`nä rō`ō), state (1990 pop. 493,277), 19,630 sq mi (50,842 sq km), SE Mexico, on the Caribbean. Chetumal is the capital. and extends all the way south to Honduras. It is the largest reef system in the Americas.
Besides its small-town Mexican ambience, Cozumel is home to the Maya ruins at San Gervasio San Gervasio (Spanish for Saint Gervase) may refer to:
Building For The Future
The Cancun region also has several other protected areas like the Sian Ka'an Sian Ka'an is a biosphere reserve in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It has been a Mexican national park since 1986 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
Part of the reserve is on land and part is in the Caribbean Sea, including a section of coral reef. Biosphere biosphere, irregularly shaped envelope of the earth's air, water, and land encompassing the heights and depths at which living things exist. The biosphere is a closed and self-regulating system (see ecology), sustained by grand-scale cycles of energy and of Reserve along the Riviera Maya. The reserve has been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations and is protected by international law.
A sprawling 1.3-million-acre area which stretches along 62 miles of coast, it contains the principal ecosystems found in the Yucatan Peninsula and the Caribbean consisting of lagoons, savannas, tropical forests, mangrove mangrove, large tropical evergreen tree, genus Rhizophora, that grows on muddy tidal flats and along protected ocean shorelines. Mangroves are most abundant in tropical Asia, Africa, and the islands of the SW Pacific. swamps and watery cays.
Local companies offer boat tours through the channels, with stops along the way at small Maya ruins once used as storehouses for trade goods. Places like the tiny, uninhabited island of Contoy, just off Isla Mujeres, is a good bird-watching spot. Day trips can be arranged from Cancun.
Not content to sit on its laurels, Cancun is continually expanding to keep its image fresh and forward looking. Several projects, like the US$1.35 billion Playa playa
or pan or flat or dry lake
Flat-bottomed depression that is periodically covered by water. Playas occur in interior desert basins and adjacent to coasts in arid and semiarid regions. Mujeres complex that will boast 7,000 hotel rooms, a pair of golf courses, residential section and a marina for 215 yachts, are already underway.
Puerto Cancun is another--a hotel development that will consist of 11,000 rooms, an 18-hole PGA (1) (Professional Graphics Adapter) An early IBM PC display standard for 3D processing with 640x480x256 resolution. It was not widely used.
(2) (Programmable Gate Array) See gate array and FPGA. golf course, homes and a 330-slip marina with clubhouse and port service. Just south of the Cancun airport, the Riviera Cancun, a new development area, will be spread out across 914 acres and will feature two new Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses alongside 4,000 new hotel units.
Fonatur is also marketing the Malecon Cancun, which will consist of a boardwalk on Cancun's lagoon, residential and commercial properties. La Herradura will focus on the El Mirador beach, the best beach in Cancun, and plans 700 rooms, two beach clubs and commercial establishments.
In addition, a new Corazone development at Punta Cancun will be an entertainment complex with musical, cultural and sporting events. Cancun will also build its second convention and exhibition hall valued at US$40 million. Finally, the first phase of construction of a US$100 million Formula One racetrack is underway. The new site will play host to racing events while also serving as a venue for concerts. It's slated for completion in 2006.
So while incorporating more Maya-related activities into its visitor attractions, Cancun is moving ahead with 21st century projects.
Story and photos by Patricia Alisau
Patricia Alisau is a travel writer based in San Antonio, Texas “San Antonio” redirects here. For other uses, see San Antonio (disambiguation).
San Antonio is the second most populous city in Texas, the third most populous metropolitan area in Texas, and is the seventh most populous city in the United States. As of the 2006 U.S. . She lived in Mexico for more than 20 years and still travels extensively throughout the country.