From Jungle to City: The Birth of Cancun

Author:
Luis Ernesto de la Garza Carballo

From Jungle to City: The Birth of Cancun

Caribbean JungleThere was once a wild jungle that was filled with exotic fruit trees, shrubs, trees, medicinal plants, orchids and other types of flowers. The splash of colors, the intense aromas, the squawk of the toucans and the grunts of the wild boar added to the ambiance. You could also find deer, pelicans, iguanas, white herons, tapirs, peccaries and frigatebirds. Next to the jungle is the beautiful turquoise sea where the reefs are filled with sea stars, brain coral and the common sea fan. Angelfish, butterflyfish, clownfish, parrotfish and hawksbill turtles could also be found in this area.

Mayan Ruins in CancunOver the centuries, the jungle has been the stage of the incredible circle of life where the Itzae made their home. The Itzae (which means ''initiated wise people'' or ''water wizards'') were a Maya tribe that discovered the beauty of the area and built several ceremonial centers as well as astronomical observation buildings. Nowadays, there are seven small sites in Cancun: El Rey, San Miguelito (1 km north of El Rey), Yamil Lu'um (in what is now the Park Royal Hotel), Koxolnax (the House of the Mosquito), El Conchero, the temple of Pok Ta Pok and El Meco (found between Puerto Juarez and Punta Sam). There are also a great number of major Maya ruins in all the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican CaribbeanAfter the conquest, the Spanish Crown authorized Francisco de Montejo to conquer the Yucatan Peninsula in 1516. The island that was known as ''Cancuen'' or ''Punta Kancune'' was first documented in 1776 by Spanish cartographer Juan de Dios Gonzalez. Since then, many explorers encountered incredible flora, fauna and archaeological remains, as well as the enchanting turquoise blue of the waters of the Caribbean. Pirates laid siege to these waters and held control until the 19th century.

Original View of CancunCancun was first populated by a handful of people who found coconut farming a sustainable form of living. With the passing of time, the world turned, two world wars were fought and the Cold War started. In 1968, when Mexico was preparing for the Olympics, President Diaz Ordaz asked the Bank of Mexico to form a National Plan of Tourism to stimulate the economy. After considering a number of towns that could have potential for development, the towns that were left in the top two were Zihuatanejo and Cancun. They became the first project of the Program of Tourist Centers, stated by the newly formed Infratur (the Tourism Infrastructure Fund), which is now known as the Fonatur (National Fund of the Promotion of Tourism).

Engineer Daniel OrtizAt the beginning of the 70s, the world started to talk about computers and new communications technology. It was in this context that the challenge of building a tourist center with all the commodities on an island set in the middle of paradise in record time was formed. An engineer named Daniel Ortiz Caso lead the first group of construction workers to do the dirty work of leveling the mangroves with machetes, laying down pavement and filling in pits. It was in this manner that the jungle became a city, forming a series of Super Manzanas (Super Blocks: small regions within the city, grouped according to area) and the one street that cuts across the island on what would eventually become the Hotel Zone.

Hotel Zone in CancunAfter a lot of effort and incredible economic impulse, the cornerstone of the first hotel in Cancun (the Cancun Caribe) was set in 1972 and offered 208 rooms and 23 cabanas when it opened. The enchanting magic of the Caribbean started to attract travelers. Tourists, eccentric millionaires and explorers demanded a place to stay at in the first hotel that was finished. This set off the hotel race which was eventually won by Hotel Parador (beating out the Cancun Caribe), which can still be found in downtown Cancun. The second option, Playa Blanca (which is now the sophisticated Temptation Resort and Spa) opened on the beach with 72 rooms and many illusions. Due to the demand, the number of hotels sky rocketed. The whole world wanted to enjoy these beaches of white sand and turquoise colored water which, according to some, is the closest you can get to heaven on Earth.

The City of CancunWhile the Cancun tourist project was being organized, in October of that same year the territory of Quintana Roo became a free and sovereign state. In 1975, the municipality of Benito Juarez was born and to this day governs the city of Cancun, which receives 3 million visitors yearly. What was once a wild jungle is now a city that is growing, as modern residential buildings, shopping malls, offices and hotels pop up on a regular basis. Now Cancun is a tourist destination that competes for the preference of travelers from all over the world as a popular international destination that keeps giving back good vibes.



By Luis Ernesto de la Garza