Lo­cal Com­mu­ni­ties Ques­tion Ben­e­fits of Mayan Train in South­ern Mex­ico

La Semana - - FRONT PAGE / PORTADA -

FELIPE CAR­RILLO PUERTO, Mex­ico,-- “If thou­sands of peo­ple flock to this town, how will we be able to ser­vice them? I’m afraid of that growth,” ZendyEuán, spokes­woman for a com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion, said in ref­er­ence to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a rail­way net­work that will run through five states in south­ern Mex­ico.

Euán, a Mayan indige­nous woman liv­ing in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Felipe Car­rillo Puerto (FCP), told IPS that they lack de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about the megapro­ject, one of the high-pro­file ini­tia­tives promised dur­ing his cam­paign by the new left­ist-Pres­i­dent An­drés Manuel LópezObrador, pop­u­larly known by his acro­nym AMLO.

“It’s not clear to us. We don’t know about the project,” said Euán, who also ques­tioned the ben­e­fits promised by the pres­i­dent, who was sworn in on Dec. 1, for the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, as well as the mech­a­nisms for par­tic­i­pa­tion in the project and the threats it poses to the en­vi­ron­ment.

“What will be the ben­e­fit for the lo­cal com­mu­nity mem­bers, for the craftswomen? As eco­tourism com­mu­ni­ties, will we be able to pro­mote our busi­nesses and goods?” said the spokes­woman for the Com­mu­nity Tourism Net­work of the Maya Zone of Quin­tana Roo, one of the states in south­east­ern Mex­ico that share the Yu­catan Penin­sula, on the At­lantic coast, with 1.5 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants.

The net­work, launched in 2014, brings to­gether 11 com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions from three mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Quin­tana Roo and of­fers eco­tourism and cul­tural tours in the area, its main eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

In the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of FCP, home to just over 81,000 peo­ple, there are 84 eji­dos,ar­eas of com­mu­nal land used for agri­cul­ture, where com­mu­nity mem­bers own and farm their own plots, which can also be sold.

One of them, of the same name as the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, FCP, cov­er­ing 47,000 hectares and be­long­ing to 250 “eji­datar­ios” or mem­bers, man­ages the eji­dal re­serves Síi­jil Noh Há (“where the wa­ter flows,” in the Mayan lan­guage) and Much’KananK’aax (“let’s take care of the for­est to­gether”).

The govern­ment’s Na­tional Tourism Fund (Fonatur) is pro­mot­ing the project, at a cost of be­tween 6.2 and 7.8 bil­lion dol­lars. The plan is for it to start op­er­at­ing in 2022, with 15 sta­tions along 1,525 kilo­me­ters in 41 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the states of Cam­peche, Chi­a­pas, Quin­tana Roo, Tabasco and Yu­catán.

The lo­co­mo­tives will run on biodiesel -pos­si­bly made from palm oil- and the trains are pro­jected to move about three mil­lion pas­sen­gers an­nu­ally, in ad­di­tion to cargo.

The new govern­ment ar­gues that the project will boost the re­gion’s so­cioe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment, foster so­cial in­clu­sion and job cre­ation, safe­guard indige­nous cul­tures, pro­tect the penin­sula’s Pro­tected Nat­u­ral Ar­eas (PNA), and strengthen the tourism in­dus­try. An­cient ecosys­tems The rail­way will cut through the heart of the Mayan jun­gle, an ecosys­tem that formed the base of the Mayan em­pire that dom­i­nated the en­tire Me­soamer­i­can re­gion – south­ern Mex­ico and Cen­tral Amer­ica – from the 8th cen­tury un­til the ar­rival of the Span­ish con­quis­ta­dors in the 16th cen­tury.

This is the most im­por­tant rain­for­est in Latin Amer­ica after the Ama­zon re­gion and a key area in the con­ser­va­tion of nat­u­ral wealth in Mex­ico, which ranks 12th among the most megadi­verse coun­tries on the planet. (IPS)

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