The Caribbean Sea has so many shades of blue and I have been fortunate enough to see a handful. In St Thomas where my cousin lives, it is a rich dark turquoise once you are out of the reefs and the bay. Towards the Gulf of Mexico in the Keys, it is more of a powder blue.
But in Tulum, wow, the pure turquoise was amazing. It had this strike of green that was captivating. It just forced me to slow down. Not to mention the ruins in the Archeological Zone that were on the edge of the seaside cliff. Absolutely stunning.
At the same time there is a very different parallel narrative that for me, an environmentalist, does not sit well. As we know, Mexico is still a third world country, still within the early cusps of its economic development. You see that as soon as you leave the high walled resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Once in Tulum there are neighborhoods of varying status. Aldea Zama being one of the premier, La Veleta (where I stayed) is middle class, and then the dirt poor. These are the communities of Mexicans living off the free land in collective style, burning their trash each night.
The beach side which is accessible via one long dirt road in and out (hello traffic!) is beautiful, magical and glorious. But in honesty, it’s an up and coming South Beach/LA in my eyes. Well-heeled, free-wheeling spenders everywhere, and resorts who may turn you away because you are not a member or don’t have a $10,000 a night room on their property. Still, I would never take back my moments from our time on the beach. My partner and I ditched the New Year’s Eve fancy parties to bike and walk the beach at night and found ourselves under amazing constellations, a full moon, a huge nebula, and a falling star!
In the 1980’s Quintana Roo was completely different. The highway that now takes travelers from Cancun to Tulum was covered with vegetation. Interestingly, the Yucatan was like a swiss-cheese like system of underground rivers that brought water from Western Yucatan peninsula to the Caribbean Sea where the second longest coral reef in the world travelled down the coast all the way to Honduras.
This fragile ecological system, which also includes the world-famous cenotes (jungle sinkholes), is the front lines of the degradation because Tulum, until recently, did not have a proper waste management or drainage system. This unique ecology means that the water cycle is very fast, it takes only 7 days for the polluted surface water to go into the underground system and then the ocean and it was happening frequently. I am not well studied on all the reasons why but a lot is attributed to corruption and illegal construction. Before the system was updated, garbage was dumped in the jungle to decompose 😦
Aside from my rant, I will admit I did find paradise inside the paradise! We jumped in cenotes, toured Chichen Itza and fell in love with the Mayan culture, and we dove deep into ourselves at Holistika. The Mayans, who in some sense are overlooked, all eyes being on the Aztecs, have a very impressive legacy. I suggest reading up on The Sixth Sun, the new phase of the universe Maya believe we are entering in 2021. It has an optimistic tone that I dare say we all need.
And I certainly found Perpetual Beta in some of the Mayan’s beliefs, starting with their view of time. For the Maya, time is the number of each day’s solar energy. Basically time is a force number that manifests each day through the sun’s rays and their sophisticated calendar kept track of these different manifestations of energy. On a daily basis the Maya cultivated their solar force through rituals, in particular dance, breath work, and recalling stories.
I also found the idea of continual self-growth in one of the only primary works left from Maya culture, the Popul Vuh. It states this after the Mayan gods finally created humans: “We have already made a first attempt at this framing and this shaping of humans, but no one names our names, no one spoke our praise or kept our days.”
So, Maya believed humans should praise their gods, which are expressions of natural forces, not human/prophet entities. The concept is similar to the Mexica ideas of the Four Tezcatlipocas who are: black- primordial energy, red-the renewal essence or fertility, blue- discipline and repetition essence, and white- essence that has been lived and becomes knowledge. Further, the work says that the natural world, which supports our existence, is a gift, and we should practice this gratitude daily.
I can think of nothing more Perpetual Beta. For me, I practice gratitude through renewing my sense of awe: mainly through nature, meditation, and as I come to study more, through Maya rituals as well, probably with a 2021 twist 😊….
So in the end, thank you Tulum, thank you very much, and I will be back. If you would like my suggestions check out these places: Panna e Ciocollato, Common Ground, Holistika, El Pez, Sfer Ik, El Tabono, Mia Restaurant, Batey’s, & Valladolid city.
By the way, how do you cultivate gratitude?