Day 8 – Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo: Maya Jungle leveled by Maya Train

The banner reads: “The destruction of our territory is the destruction of our culture.”

On the 8th day of the El Sur Resiste | The South Resists Caravan arrived in the city of Felipe Carillo Puerto where we marched through the streets of the city making visible the problems caused by the Maya Train project.

After the march, we depart for Xpujil, Campeche, however, we stop at the stop on the crossroad to Laguna Ocom.

As soon as we arrive, the outlook is bleak. In this place, section 6 of the misnamed Maya Train has already taken the lives of thousands of trees; Cedars and mahogany have been cut down without any consideration for all that is lost with each tree that is felled. Home to hundreds of species, they have been uprooted from the earth in order to hand over these lands to American, Canadian, and German companies.

The Maya jungle, once full of life, flora and fauna, is now a space split in half where there are only stones and all the trees have been killed. Where life has been destroyed, the heat gives no respite, drought is felt in the environment, dust is felt floating in the air.

Although photographs of this crime have been seen on the internet, being in the midst of destruction and death is painful for everyone present. The person responsible for this ecocide has a name: Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Compañero Angel Sulub, from the Maya community of Noj Kaj Santa Cruz Xáalam Naj K’ampokolche’, talks about what this disaster means for his people, the Mayas who have inhabited and defended this jungle for millennia:

“With a lot of courage, with a lot of anger in the middle of a sacred territory, the jungle that our ancestors have bequeathed to us, a territory for which our grandfathers and grandmothers fought to take care of and to guarantee that we and our granddaughters can enjoy the well-being that the territory gives us. This Maya jungle is being dispossessed; this Maya jungle is being brutally murdered. Here, where we are now, there were cedars, mahogany, chicozapotes, the deer walked here, the jaguars walked here.

Right now, we are looking at a desolate place.We are seeing the beginning of what they, those at the top, want: the looting, the most voracious extractivism of the peoples. Sacred waters that come from the state of Campeche and go to the coast travel through this territory. We are not only seeing the devastation of these ecosystems, we are seeing the destruction of the way of life of the peoples.”

Two compañeros perform a ritual in this place of destruction, they offer water and honey to the wounded earth, they tell Mother Earth to resist, that we are here, and that we feel her pain.

A Model of Destruction and Death

At the site of the devastation, we spoke with Sergio Madrid and Sara Cuervo of the Mexican Civil Forestry Council about the destruction of the Maya rainforest on the Yucatan Peninsula as a result of the progress of the Maya Train project.

Sergio Madrid and Sara Cuervo explain that this region and the Yucatan Peninsula is one of the regions with the largest forest area in the country along with Chiapas, and the second most important forest system in America recognized as the Maya Jungle. They also talk about the variety of endemic species in this region such as the jaguar, the tapir and many others.

Sergio Madrid talks about how the model of extractive tourism, the environmental and social destruction of Cancun, wants to be replicated throughout the Peninsula.

“That model has been about removing people’s access to the beach. The territory has been taken by large tourism capital, what FONATUR [1] wants is to take this scheme of large investment of entrepreneurs, and the government is the one that opens the way for these entrepreneurs to enter. The environment, the organization in defense of the territory, human rights, are a hindrance to this scheme.”

Sara Cuervo also talks about the need to not only see the terrible devastation of the train tracks, but also, all the ecocide in other areas such as the filling of cenotes and aguadas. [2] Also look at the violence that has been provoked from the implementation of this project and that has been generated with the arrival of the Army and National Guard to the places where the project is going to be built.

“Despite more than 500 years of resistance, we live in a historic moment of seeing communities crossed by a genocidal and ecocidal project. There is terror and fear of militarization and the arrival of these bodies; there is also this ignorance of everything that is being woven with this project, and how it is connected to the Interoceanic Corridor and all the geopolitical interest in the region.”

Sergio Madrid speaks specifically about the deforestation process, and about the lack of public policies of the Mexican State to address and stop deforestation in the states of Chiapas and the Yucatan Peninsula. Instead, the Government of Mexico has encouraged this massive deforestation by not implementing any type of environmental regulation to cut down thousands of hectares and plant monocultures such as sugar cane, sorghum, and soy in an agro-industrial way or under the assistance and clientelist project Sembrando Vida, which has been commented on during the Caravan as one of the main promoters of community division.

Finally, Sara Cuervo talks about the arrival of other exploitative industries in the region along with the arrival of the Maya Train, including real estate for luxury constructions and tourism projects for foreigners with high purchasing power, trafficking of women and children as has happened in the Cancun area and in other areas impacted by megaprojects of death.

Before leaving, we took a photograph in a pile of stones and construction material, with our fists raised, the El Sur Resiste Caravan shouts: “The Jungle is not for Sale, it is loved and defended!”

We leave with a heavy heart to see the cruelest form of murderous and voracious capitalism, but we also carry our hearts full of rage promising Mother Earth to fight to defend her, to defend us, today more than ever we need to understand that this struggle is for life.

Translator’s Notes

[1] FONATUR is the Spanish acronym for the Fondo Nacional de Fomento al Turismo (National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism).

[2] cenotes and aguadas – sink holes and water holes filled with potable water

Originally Published in Spanish by El Sur Resiste, Wednesday, May 3, 2023, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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