Daniel Vallejo McGettigan
Dan arrived to Tulum, meaning “Walled City,” on a single dirt road from Cancun in the 1980’s for his honeymoon when the small fishing village had less than 600 inhabitants. There was no running water, no electricity, very few Mexicans much less foreigners, and miles of empty beaches. He saw what would be his future home, and what is now Hotel Zamas, as an abandoned coconut plantation nestled on a rocky cove just a mile away from the Tulum archeological site. He named his hotel Zamas, which some argue was the city’s original name, meaning “sunrise” or “City of Dawn” because it faces the sunrise. Over a decade of sunrises later, Dan’s hotel became one of the poster boys for sustainable tourism in an internationally visited hotel zone acclaimed for its eco-friendly development. Today, he watches hotels and restaurants using the word “eco” as a marketing tool rather than a commitment to preserving the limited water sources below them. He would know. He has discovered two more cenote openings on his own property in recent years.
Dan is a realist. He knows the amount of water it takes to supply his own 15-room palapa hotel and restaurant. Conceiving what it would take to supply a 100-room hotel where there is no infrastructure in place and limited regulation on where to empty waste water can only mean one thing. “Enjoy Tulum while it is still here.”
His admiration for the Mayan culture is rooted from his own Mexican heritage and from memories his children will always have of growing up on the unfettered beaches and learning how to build a home in the face of unrelenting winds. His prediction for the future of Tulum is dire. Little or no government regulation will lead to contaminated ground water; golf courses and resorts will fall across mangroves less than 50 meters away from the ocean; and as it did for the Mayans 1100 years ago, fresh water will run out. It is unlikely that Dan will still be in Tulum in 10 years, but his legacy will, as one of the first foreigners to have made a home in Tulum the right way. Learning from the environment first, then building your paradise second.
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 29th, 2011 at 11:31 am
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