Sunday, February 18, 2007

Trying to find naturaleza in Cancun

A normal person goes to Cancun to forget about worries. They leave disturbing concerns about the state of the mangroves, the decling fauna and marine life behind. But I'm not a normal person. I am a journalist with a background in environmental journalism-- a bad combo that prevents me from relaxing at a place like this. I'm in Cancun (for the first time) helping Jeremy photograph a story on environmental impacts here after the hurricane.

While the water is a beautiful transparent blue, it's hard for me not to think about how little naturaleza there actually is around me. Cancun is a man-made city, and I feel the plasticness around me. I guess I should say at this point that I'm not really a beach kind-of-girl anyway. I don't swim, and I can easily tan on a hot day by just walking around town. But I can appreciate beauty. In the Corn Islands in Nicaragua, the water was amazing, the beach untouched by hotel resorts and developers trying to make a buck. It was still pure. You could walk on the beach for miles and not see anyone, perhaps a few locals. In Cancun, the lake across the beach is dying. Animals that call it their home are beginning to die as well. But I'll let the news story tell you more about that.

We met a lifeguard named Daniella as she was shoveling through a small cliff of sand. She was building some makeshift stairs for her in order to access higher beach ground. Someone could need help right now, she said, but because I have to shovel through this myself, I might not see them. She went on to say that some of the hotels do not provide basic needs for the lifeguards or the beach. A drunk American drowned in three feet of water last week, she said. The beach hardly has signs to warn beach-goers of dangerous areas. Some hotels do not provide watch towers for lifeguards, limiting their view and not protecting them from the sun. Daniella has already developed sunspots on her face. Perhaps more alarming, she said that some lifeguards have gone snorkeling only to find that there are sewage pipes from some of the hotels to the ocean. She said the others tell her there's no point in reporting it because nothing will get done.

At night I stood on the balcony facing the ocean, closed my eyes and listened to the sound of waves crashing. Forgive us madre tierra for what we are doing to you.

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