By Ruben Arvizu*
Haga clic aquí para la versión en español.
The name Cancun conjures up images of soft white beaches, crystal clear, turquoise blue waters, mega hotel complexes, and ancient Mayan ruins…basically, a natural paradise with many fun activities.
But a new visitor is hovering on the horizon and it is not another luxury liner. The cruise ships disembowel up to 4500 tourists from their hulls like the schools of fish they will snorkel with later that day. In this case, the new visitor is The Dragon Mart Cancun - a gargantuan industrial/shopping/living complex development in the vicinity of Puerto Morelos, a small, tranquil fishing village surrounded by natural beauty only 20 miles from Cancun. They plan to set up permanently in this idyllic jungle to showcase products and goods from China…similar, but bigger than their other project in Dubai that has 3,950 shops encompassing more than one and a half million square feet.
The environmental impact would be as colossal as the proposed behemoth, not to mention the adverse social and economic implications to the local community. The first stage alone would witness the arrival of enormous cargo ships unloading 140 shipping containers per day. The traffic with its accompanying pollution would be a terrible ecological blow to the seabed of the adjacent Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest in the world.
Dragon Mart Cancun will be the biggest Chinese business enterprise on the American Continent. The permits, strangely supported by some top Mexican officials, have some similarities with the Wal-Mart bribery scandal in Mexico.
The project is currently on hold thanks to some expedient and brave legal action from the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (Mexican Center for Environmental Rights). This organization has received the support of important NGO’s such as Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society.
But if the temporary stay fails and the project goes forward, Puerto Morelos and its environs will be assaulted with the development of nearly 1,400 acres, which will include several industrial buildings, a business center and a shopping area. Additionally, housing will be built for more than 3,500 Chinese citizens and their families who will permanently migrate to the region to work and manage the facilities. This begs the question on the role and function of local Mexican workers. Will they be marginalized to only the lower, non-managerial echelons?
The negative environmental impact is not the only threat to be considered. Mexican industry - textiles, shoes, etc. will feel the economic effect as well. The favorable import tariffs will allow a massive influx of all types of Chinese goods and products, many of them of poor quality, unsafe and with a long history of problems and recalls. Mexico can ill afford another situation that would render the same non-equitable partner outcome that NAFTA delivered.
These products would soon flood the American continent from North to South, without any standard manufacturing quality control. The list of poor-quality Chinese products is large and growing. Below is a list of just a few. We refer our readers to visit the links below to underscore this point.
- Drywall: here and here
- The massive toy recall from Mattel: here and here
- The toothpaste affair: here and here
- Tires anyone?: here and here
- How about food for our beloved pets?: here and here
- Or labor rights? Remember Apple?: here and here and here and here
It is to our benefit to pay attention to this matter from our neighbor to the south. Our globalized world brings this scenario and its impact very close to home. We need to be concerned citizens and smart consumers. Consumerism for the sake of consumerism does not build the communities we need to build for a viable future. Investigate, participate, call the Mexican Embassy and consulates and express your concerns. At stake here are not just jobs but the environment of an entire region and the life of future, sustainable generations.
Ruben Arvizu collaborates with Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society as Film/Producer/Writer and Director for Latin America. In March 2012 he was named Ambassador of the Global Cities Covenant on Climate.
First Photograph: A considerable amount of land has already been cleared despite not having final authorization from SEMARNAT, the Mexican Secretary of the Environment. A line of trees facing the highway have been left standing so as to block the view of the devastation. Photo © Rodrigo Elizarrarás
Second Photograph: The Governor of Quintana Roo, Roberto Borge, reviewing the model of Dragon Mart last June. Photo courtesy infolliteras.com
Third Photograph: Dragon Mart Cancun – Model. Photo courtesy infolliteras.com