September 13, 2013
More than a thousand years ago, Mexico’s Caribbean coast was an important point on the Mayan maritime trade route between the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America. It is now Mexico’s top tourist destination, with more than eight million visitors arriving each year to enjoy its beaches, coral reefs and archaeological sites. Yet while many resorts and restaurants have “Maya” in their names, and the coast south of Cancun has been dubbed the “Riviera Maya,” most of the region’s Mayans have barely benefited from the tourism boom.
There are approximately 200,000 Mayans in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which comprises the country’s Caribbean coast, but most of them live in towns scattered across the peninsula’s forested interior – a world apart from the resorts and beach towns. Whereas the hotels, bars and restaurants near the coastal ruins of Tulum offer WiFi and cable TV, and English is spoken as commonly as Spanish, a short drive inland are Mayan towns where most people still speak Yucateca Maya, the native language, and continue such ancestral traditions as holding ceremonies before planting and harvesting theirmilpas(mixed farm plots of corn, squash, beans, chiles and other crops). Read more here