Here is a shot of the beach at Progreso. It is a wide stretch of white soft and silky sand. This is a good example of a beach that is NOT showing erosion rapidly.
There is plenty of beach erosion along the Yucatán Coast, especially along the northern Gulf Coast...including Cancún. Some areas are eroding much faster than others. From what I have seen, Progreso still has nice wide beaches along its malecón and beyond. East of Progreso, around Chixculub there may be sections of eroding beach, but it too is a beautiful wide white sand beach. Farther east toward Telchac Puerto the erosion is more evident, and maybe I can find some of the photos I took there in 2007 showing how close to the water the houses and restaurants are now located.
East of Progreso there is an area with wide sandy beaches thanks to the protection of the 7 km. long pier in Progreso. It acts as a protector for the area to its west, I guess that would be Yucalpetén and Chuburná.
But once you go west of Progreso to Chelem and Sisal, the beach erosion is just plain scary. When I came down here in early 2007 and gave consideration to living at the beach, I cruised through these communities. When I saw the water lines noticeable on the houses at about a meter's height, houses three or more blocks back from the beach, this thought ran through my head: Sure I would love to live at the beach. And I know I'm crazy but I am not insane. To buy a house here, in my opinion, would be insane.
The area was hard hit by a few hurricanes that rolled through the Yucatán this millenium. Much of the erosion was not gradual, but the effects of strong winds and currents. I do believe the sea level is rising, and I also believe that we are going to have a wild hurricane season this year. I think one of the things that makes me unfairly critical here is my experience working with the Federal Disaster Cadre after floods and hurricanes. Most people who had lost everything had built their homes in a flood plain. In the Yucatán the damages will be greatest along the beaches where the water is already splashing up over their porches in times of high tide.
I am NOT a believer in dredging sand and replenishing eroding beaches. It is part of how the earth is constantly changing. Bring in more sand and Mother Nature will eventually take it back to where she wanted it to be in the first place. Man can't solve all problems. We cannot plug up active volcanos, and we cannot stop beach erosion or Ma Nature from making her natural changes. Whether we can send a nuclear bomb down into the Gulf to stop the oil spill, well, that is beyond my comprehension and I hope that was just a horrible rumor I heard. I live near the Gulf!
Unfortunately this attitude of mine immediately alienated me from the beach population, because I see them as bargain hunters that didn't do their homework. The expat population of these communities comprise quite a variety of folks, mostly looking for an inexpensive way to live out their dream of having a house on the beach in the tropics. There is a nickname for the residents of Chelém, but it is really not very nice and I am going to admit to knowing it, possibly agreeing with it, but I won't print it here. Who knows, I may end up around there one of these days too, looking for a cheaper way to survive. None of us on this side of the Yucatán either have the money to own a piece of the land on the Caribbean side, or are of that special mindset of the Riviera Maya inhabitants. I will say that for me the difference in the Gulf folks and the Caribbean folks is this: The Gulf people, looking for a cheaper and simpler life are more REAL and the Caribbean people with the big dough are the DIG ME crowd. I'd rather suck up some beers and tell tales with some real people than to dress up and try to impress the dig me crowd over appletinis.
Believe it or not, I have nothing against the folks who live on these beaches. I tend to live a LIVE FOR TODAY life and in retrospect, so what if living on the beach causes constant challenges? My house in Mérida is like having bought a boat.....it always needs something. And if on the beach, if it means you have to move back...well?
Of course I ramble, but that is today's post. I was really shocked at some of these beach home sights. It made me think about how strong nature is, and how we really need to respect what we have left of our planet.
Chelem beach, the gulf is creeping up to the steps of the houses.
Or it has already passedthat and has entered the house.
Maybe the house has to be moved back, and built up.
So is it the earth just falling off in chunks or what?
These are the seashells we collected walking along the Chelem beach. Note the remnants of floor tiles. (The batfruit seed fell into my display later while my collection sat in the patio.) All the beaches on the northwest and west Yucatán shores are loaded with seashells. Chelem is the first place that most of them were portions of house tiles.
A rant is not a rant without the kicker. Cancún beach erosion. For those who don't know, Cancún was a small pueblo on the northern end of the peninsula. There were mangroves along the Caribbean side, just mush and marsh land. Dry jungle we call it. Back in the 80's they brought in what was then millions of dollars of sand to fill in the mangrove and make attractive beaches for tourists. Then they built huge hotels on the spits that are the land bits among the mangrove surroundings. I am not sure how many times the government has had to replenish the sand to maintain Cancún as one of the best beaches anywhere! This year it was 2billion USDollars worth of sand. Tourism must go on. (Even if the majority of the country's population lives in dire poverty) And so will the hurricane season, predicted to be the worst one in recent history. Let's see who ends up with 2billion dollars worth of super sand.