Quintana Roots: The Street Art Of The Other Tulum
There are two Tulums. Literally, there is the “beach” side and the “town” side. And somewhat metaphorically, there is the aspirational Tulum we know from Instagram, and the real Tulum where real life happens. Real life, real people with real clothes on, real hustle just like elsewhere in Mexico.
The street art reflects the division. Whereas along the beach it’s all butterflies and dream-catchers, in “town” the street art represents the daily struggle. The struggle of the disappearing Maya culture and language in the province of Quintana Roo. The struggle of the planet, and specifically the local environment destroyed by Tulum’s overtourism. The greed, the overdevelopment, the inequality. The foreign investment. The local frustration.
We owe it to the Maya people of Quintana Roo to get out of our rustic-chic cabanas on the beach and take a walk on the other side.
And FOOD. Always intertwined in culture, food means identity. Corn means indigenous roots. Axiote, sour oranges, salbutes, papadzules, among others, is what constitutes the gastronomic make up of Riviera Maya. In the meantime, the most coveted and instagrammed restaurants on the “beach” serve Italian pasta, Turkish meze, and a plethora of bohemian trendy fusion small plates. Yes, inevitably, there is Mexican food available along the beach but not one restaurant that serves the unique and distinct Mayan cuisine. The upscale venue Casa Jaguar is frankly the only jaguar left in the jungle. Fishing is ancestors’ domain, the coral and the cenotes are sacred. Tourism is destroying the underwater life of Tulum slowly, one sunscreen tub at a time.
The least we can do is appreciate the art work and try to empathize with the pain points. We owe it to the Maya people of Quintana Roo to get out of our rustic-chic cabanas on the beach and take a walk on the other side. Here’s a taste of what you’ll find.