The Untold Story of Tulum's Property Wars
The Untold Story of Tulum's Property Wars

February 19, 2024
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February 19, 2024

The Untold Story of Tulum's Property Wars

The Untold Story of Tulum’s Property Wars

TULUM, Mexico – Over 42 years since the issuance of the expropriation decree covering 664 hectares for the creation of Tulum National Park, legal rulings continue to favor private individuals defending ownership claims over conservation land.

Ongoing legal disputes in federal courts are putting pressure on the Mexican government through injunctions that assert acquired rights, demanding the protection of the affected parties’ right to a fair hearing.

The most recent judgment in protection, case number 31907825 from the Third District Court of Quintana Roo, granted federal protection to a businesswoman against an alleged delimitation of two plots in Tulum. The dispossession notice was served on March 10, 2022.

The genesis of these legal conflicts lies in the omission by past PRI federal governments, which failed to register the impact on properties and plots within the 664 hectares when the protected natural area was established in May 1981.

The legal dispute originated in constitutional controversy 72/2099 filed by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, with a ruling in favor of the Federal Executive in May 2011. The ministers declared the illegal creation of the urban planning program for the then municipality of Solidaridad, approved in the Fourteenth Extraordinary Council Session and effective since April 9, 2008.

The Untold Story of Tulum's Property Wars

The Urban Development Program for the Population Center of Tulum 2006-2030 and its update ignored the regulations for federal jurisdiction areas, such as Tulum National Park and the Archaeological Monuments Zone Tulum-Tancah.

The document unlawfully sanctioned urban development in a Protected National Area, including Tulum National Park within the Municipal Population Center. Subsequently, incompatible land uses were approved, violating the protection regime and allowing activities prohibited by the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection in conservation areas.

The National Park was granted authorization for certain areas to undergo urban development, some inexplicably approved for private property. The municipal decree resulted in the issuance of legally worthless private property titles and validated a special zoning regulation.

This paved the way for the acquisition of rights, construction densities, allocation of incompatible land uses, tourist development, and urbanization in the conservation land of the national park. Tourist Hotel Land uses of medium, medium-low, low, and very low density were permitted “along the coast, taking advantage of the beauty of the sea and the surroundings, hotels of low density could be located.”

Although the Court invalidated the urban development program, it distanced itself from addressing the situation of constructions and human settlements detected in the conservation area, delegating the issue to the Federation.

“Resolve the situation of existing constructions and human settlements in the area, for which it may coordinate with the State of Quintana Roo and the defendant municipalities, establishing the manner and terms in which they will intervene.”

The trial identified 180 affected registry pages with some property rights over an area of 273 hectares, validated by the Ministry of Agrarian Reform in 256 hectares, the government of Quintana Roo in 127 hectares, and 8 hectares belonging to the buffer zone of the Tulum Archaeological Zone.

During the same controversy, the municipality of Tulum acknowledged the existence of 80 individuals and entities who proved land ownership rights through titles issued from 1975 and legal documents from 1995 to 2010.

This included 35 promises of sale contracts, 7 of which progressed to a sales contract, 58 public deeds certifying measurements and boundaries, sales contracts, land subdivisions, and/or cadastral subdivision reports. Additionally, an irrevocable transfer of ownership trust contract, along with 43 property tax receipts and 10 property titles.

Among the implicated companies is KR Playa VI, linked to Gilberto Guzmán and Diego Higareda Diez, with claims over 11 plots according to Electronic Mercantile Folio (EMF) 3100 from the Public Registry of Commerce.

Tulum Maya company, owned by Óscar and Andrés Constandse Madrazo and Andrés Francisco and José Manuel Orvañanos Urrutia, with claims over 7 plots according to EMF 9985.

Similarly, Arotesa Playa, S.A. de C.V. with 7 plots, Hanolas Corp, S.A. de C.V. (owned by American John Eric Kendall and New Zealander Cynthia Jane Kendall) with 4, Inmobiliaria Tancah Tulum (3), and Negra Bamboo (owned by American Peter David Metrick and Cozumel merchants Edilberta Tec and Jorge Peralta) with 2, among others.

Individuals involved include actor and entrepreneur Roberto Palazuelos (4), Pedro Canché Balam, Leticia Barrios Santana, Nicasio Canché Catzmin, and television producer Pedro Muñoz Romero, among others.

The Untold Story of Tulum's Property Wars
The Untold Story of Tulum's Property WarsEN