Tulum, Q.R. – More than a dozen hotels, shops and private residences were evacuated by force on Friday after a 20-year legal battle over property.
Actuaries from the Civil Court of Playa del Carmen, with the support of the Municipal Police and private security guards, executed the eviction order in hotels, restaurants, shops, private houses and vacant lots in the town of Tulum.
Those affected say the process of removing people started around 8:00 a.m. when officials began the force evacuation. Dozens of individuals with security t-shirts were on scene, which lead to outbreaks of violence between private security guards and land owners.
Evacuees said that a large group of men started breaking door locks and forcibly entering the premises, calling those inside squatters and ordering them out by court order. Many of the property owners say they knew nothing of the court order and that no notice was given of the eviction.
Alonso Ventre Sifri, a property owner in the eviction zone said, “I entered a property I own in the area of Punta Piedra with my mother and immediately I was prevented from entering the land that belongs to us. A man aggressively stepped in front of me and told us that we could not enter. Nobody met with us or notified us. On the contrary. They used the police and private security agents, who were actually armed vandals, to frighten us and force us to retreat under threat.”
A worker from Hotel Las Estrellas said, “We have not been allowed to see the eviction order,” adding that the eviction process began with their hotel.
Even the tourists were evicted. Hotels in the affected area had an estimated 60 percent occupancy rate at the time of the evacuation, leaving tourists to scramble for other accommodations.
Some of the establishments included in the mass eviction were Cabañas Balam, Utopia Yoga Retreats, Adama Boutique, Iguana Blue Hotel, Maya Luum Coffee Shop, KM 33 Boutique, Hotel Parayso, Coqui Coqui Boutique Hotel, Casas Privadas Cocodrilo, La Tente Rose, Hotel Azucar, Casa Gemenis, Samasati, Naay Beach Club, Uno Astrolodge, Villa Las Estrellas, Playa Morena del Mar and at least two private properties and a vacant lot.
It was evening when scores of moving trucks were seen leaving the area filled with furniture and other belongings from the establishments in Punta Piedra. Mattresses, blankets, carpets, paintings, lamps, and numerous pieces of furniture were removed from the rooms of hotels. Tables, chairs, tablecloths, dishes and utensils were taken from the restaurants and stacked along the roadside along with beach chairs and umbrellas.
A property evacuee, Guillermo Román Millán felt, “Here, uncertainty is what you get. No notice of the procedure. Everything is done behind a smokescreen and it is difficult. I am a tenant and owners know there are many false rumors and cover-ups of the actual situation.”
According to Roberto Palazuelos, president of the Tulum Hotel Association, the eviction derived from a longstanding dispute initiated by Esteban Magana Schiavon who claims leaders of the ejido Pino Suárez illegally sold the land to individuals. He added that those evicted on Friday were defrauded by the ejidatarios.
He said there were six other landholders who previously arranged with Magna to be left out of the eviction including Hotel Ahau, a property owned by Palazuelos. Palazuelos also added that more eviction orders were to come in lots owned by “reiomontanous” entrepreneurs.
The surprise eviction occurred along a two-kilometer stretch in the region of Punta Piedra in the town of Tulum. According to residents, it is the largest eviction in the history of Tulum, marked in recent years by disputes over coastal lands.