TULUM, Mexico – The real estate boom that had been gaining momentum in this city came to a halt with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, only to rebound with greater force in early 2021. Today, Tulum experiences an unprecedented surge, driven by the inauguration of the new Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport. However, a wave of fraud and speculation has propelled the square meter prices in this area to the highest in the state and the entire country.
In 2021, real estate agents in Tulum reported that the square meter was valued in the peripheral zone ranging from $1,712,329 to $15,428 along the federal highway or in the residential area of Aldea Zamá. However, with the emergence of the airport and the Jaguar Park, prices skyrocketed, reaching up to 50 thousand pesos per square meter in some areas, according to an advisor speaking to The Tulum Times.
“There is no fixed price at the moment; everything is speculative. Prices are imposed based on the client, their needs, or the company. But each day, the cost per square meter increases, positioning Tulum as the most expensive area in the entire Mexican Republic,” confirmed the region’s most sought-after broker to our publication.
Alongside the speculation about lands and properties in Tulum, there is also a trafficking of fear. Real estate agents conduct their work cautiously as organized crime forces them to disclose the names of new property owners, their investments, occupations, and operating locations. Their work has become perilous, operating almost clandestinely and in silence.
Despite requests for anonymity, insiders confirm the presence of a cartel controlling land sales around the airport and the 2 de Octubre invasion area, allegedly with the support of municipal authorities, starting from the Cadastre and Public Works. Notary Publics find themselves in similar circumstances. This sector opts to remain silent, not ask questions, and not provide answers.
The Daily Speculation…
On April 17, 2023, the Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial, and Urban Development (Sedatu) published an agreement in the Official Gazette of the Federation, ceding 8,451 hectares from the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Felipe Carrillo Puerto to the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Conanp).
“The Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial, and Urban Development makes available to the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the surface of 8,451.61.96 hectares, of Polygon 2 Bis, of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve property, municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, state of Quintana Roo,” reads the agreement signed by Dulce María Rodríguez Cervantes, Director of Rural Property Planning at Sedatu.
These lands border the Chunyaxché ejido to the west, where the Tulum International Airport was constructed. Speculations suggest that this measure could serve to provide land for this government project, further increasing speculative prices in the area.
In response to concerns about an attack on the reserve due to this transfer, Gonzalo Merediz, director of the civil association Friends of Sian Ka’an, asserted that this land transfer to Conanp “reinforces the conservation vocation granted to the area with the 1986 decree creating the Sian Ka’an Natural Protected Area (ANP).”
He emphasized that, despite being a conservation area, the transfer to Conanp “fortifies the land against real estate interests that have sought to extend into the reserve for years.”
Merediz insisted that this land strip could serve as a buffer zone for the Sian Ka’an reserve and provide legal certainty about the land’s vocation to the communities of the ecotourism destination known as Mayakán.
Speculation and Semi-Clandestine Land Sales…
The speculation and semi-clandestine land sales around the airport were exposed with at least 40 requests for regularization of national lands “frozen” by the Federal Government to prevent land speculation prompted by the arrival of the Tren Maya in Quintana Roo.
Karla Verónica Moreno Gómez, the representative of the Agrarian Attorney in the State, warned the population not to fall for these frauds, as many of these lands do not even have the necessary assessments from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
She stated that groups have been identified as selling these lands despite not having the necessary permits from the Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial, and Urban Development (Sedatu). She cautioned the public, as there are currently no plans to sell national lands.
“Since the beginning of the Tren Maya construction in Quintana Roo, the Agrarian Attorney and Semarnat signed an agreement for the release of any nationally-owned surface in this area, subject to the issuance of the corresponding assessments,” she declared.
Politicians and Land Deals…
Speculations and land sales in the area also implicate politicians who own significant amounts of land in Quintana Roo. The investigation reveals that the sons of Nicolás Mollinedo Bastar, also known as “Nico,” are owners of 64 hectares in front of one of the main stations of the Tren Maya in Tulum.
The report details that the federal government is building the Tulum station next to a tourist park owned by the Mollinedo Portilla family. The eldest son acquired the land in October 2018, two months after the president announced the Tren Maya construction. The company managing the park is owned by Lydia Esther Portilla Mánica, Nico’s ex-wife, and her brother Jorge Alberto Portilla Mánica, the current secretary-general of the Tulum City Council.
The second son also works in the government as a councilor in the City Council of Benito Juárez (Cancún), where he serves as the president of the Urban Development and Mobility Commission in this municipality of Quintana Roo.
These land prices will rise significantly with the Tren Maya project. The report draws attention to the previous cancellation of the Texcoco airport by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who stated that many associates of former President Peña Nieto had purchased lands in the vicinity for speculation.
President López Obrador mentioned that the Navy and the Ministry of Communications and Transportation acquired 1,500 hectares to build the airport. Currently, a new 12-hole golf course is set to be announced in the area, and 52 real estate developments are confirmed and under construction, ranging from small studios to large residences with prices exceeding a million dollars for 140 square meters of construction. Additionally, a new corridor is being created from the federal highway to the new airport with the concept of ‘villages’ or ‘eco’ neighborhoods. The speculation shows no signs of stopping and walks hand in hand with organized crime.