Acre by acre, or more aptly, “hectare by hectare”, the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is slowly but surely becoming a new American colony, not unlike Baja last decade. Like something from the days of the American Land Rush of the 1800’s, this scarce land was wild, sparsely settled, and populated almost entirely by the Mayan Indians less than a decade ago.
The Mayans are now selling their virgin, newly-titled, sacred lands for the first time in modern history. This creation and availability of entirely new Mexico real estate is due in part to recent changes in Mexico’s laws allowing the Mayans to title and sell their beach property to foreigners. This precious, rarified piece of coastline is proclaimed to be the most beautiful in the world by the likes of Condé Nast Traveller, The Travel Channel, Orbitz and a host of other critics.
“For Sale” signs litter the land along the finite, 80-mile, white-sand swath, offering turquoise, tree-lined, beachfront properties and untainted jungle lots. One by one, Americans and Canadians are scooping them up. Despite media-hyped headlines of drug war violence, the buyers just keep coming. In fact, this new breed of American immigrants are coming so fast they are creating entire communities where English is the language, the dollar is the currency and “Gringo” is quickly transforming the culture.
Every piece of property and type of lot you can imagine is for sale. Although prices are still within reach, buyers and sellers are beginning to realize that this is some of the last, undeveloped Caribbean beach property in North America. It’s a new land rush involving tens of thousands of Americans, billions of dollars, hundreds of square miles of freshly-titled terrain and it is rapidly gaining momentum.
For those who may not yet know, the Riviera Maya runs along the eastern Yucatan Coastline from just south of Cancun, past Playa del Carmen, all the way down to Tulum. It is located in the state of Quintana Roo in Eastern Mexico and is the only Caribbean coastline in Mexico. Unlike West Coast, Gulf Coast or Florida destinations, Riviera Maya boasts warm, clear, clean waters year round and is uniquely protected from disastrous oil spills by strong, northerly currents.
As the massive Gulf oil spill continues, many American buyers and developers fear that beachfront property in or around the Gulf of Mexico and Florida’s Coast is destined for a multi-decade, environmental catastrophe. They are seeking a smarter frontier to claim, a place to grow and keep their investment nest eggs safe. Only 350 nautical miles across the Gulf and a short 2.5 hours from many U.S. airports, they may have discovered such a place. It now appears Americans are using their money to drive a stake in the ground in the Riviera Maya, claiming it as their own little piece of America, a New Florida, if you will.
It’s all happening very fast. What would normally take five years of property development in the States is literally happening in a matter of months. Playa del Carmen in the heart of the Riviera Maya, which a few years ago had only dirt streets, was recently named the “fastest growing city in the world” by Guinness Book of Records and Tulum, just 30 minutes to the south, is poised to grow even faster, boosted by the imminent, new international airport.
It may be human nature or human greed that is driving this demand but the amount of money coming into this part of Mexico through zealous buyers and developers is staggering. American and Canadian developers are expecting people to come by the hundreds of thousands and envisioning planned communities with 5, 000 new homes for 13, 000 fellow “Gringo” citizens at a time. They know over 1 million Americans already make their home in Mexico (more than any other country) and more are on their way. They also know that there will be 100 million Americans 50 years of age or older by 2012 looking for a smarter way to invest their retirement dollars. They want lower taxes, a reduced cost of living, more affordable healthcare and of course, better weather.
For many on the mainland, they have yet to hear “hide nor hair” of the Mayan land grab happening south of border. Nevertheless, the land rush is on. Today in the undeveloped quarters of the tiny, beach-front, town of Tulum, streets are still made of mud, jungle hectares lay unmanicured and empty. There is not yet running water, plumbing, nor electricity, and certainly no telephone, cable TV or internet, but the future is coming very fast. For here, in the ancient mayan jungle, an American town is about to be built.
And if they’re right, Americans, Canadians and Europeans will all come. They will come by the hundreds of thousands, across the Atlantic and the oil fields of the Gulf, to this Mayan Eden perched on sacred shores. They will come to enjoy a brand new land, to find a freer frontier, full of hope, prosperity and promise. They will come just as they always have and perhaps always will. That’s what land rushes are all about.