Across the bay from the glittery hotel district, Cancun residents often enjoy some cool respite on the city’s breezy malecón, Latin America’s name for a seafront promenade. On a typical evening, people can be found jogging, playing, dog walking, or just taking in the fresh Caribbean trade winds. Until January 16, a dense mangrove forest led up to Cancun’s malecón, separating the peaceful walkway from the bustling city. But at 2 a.m. on that Sunday, bulldozers moved in and tore the mangrove trees away, destroying a much-needed green space for residents and demolishing the habitat of thousands of creatures.
The residents of Cancun reacted, and moved to protect and restore what was left of the mangrove forest. Leveraging social media, notably Facebook pages Salvemos Manglar Tajamar (Let’s Save Tajamar Mangrove) and Guardianes del Manglar Cancún (Mangrove Guardians of Cancun), as well as Twitter, calls to action have been rapidly answered by the community, leading to connections with Greenpeace and the international network to save mangrove forests worldwide.
Every day and night since January 16, the Guardianes del Manglar stand vigil under a blue and white tent, next to a painted tarp depicting a large mangrove tree embracing the earth with its extensive root system. The Tajamar Mangrove had been home to many animals, including the enormous crocodiles that delight residents, and figure prominently in historical Maya cosmology.
The destruction was carried out under the supervision of Mexico’s National Fund for Tourism Development, FONATUR, with federal police on hand to protect the operation.