by Mari Pintkowski (July 2015)
I have lived in the Tulum area for more than 10 years and watched affluence, another name for progress, change the architecture surrounding us. When we arrived in Macario Gómez, a small Maya pueblo along the Cobá Road, most of the construction was wood sticks, sand floors and palapa, or thatched, roofs.
Our B&B's, La Selva Mariposa's, emergence in the village did bring affluence, in the form of jobs for the local workers and B&B guests who brought money to spend in the restaurants and shops that line the road.
TV dishes were here long before we arrived, but we have seen the facades change from wood and palapa to concrete construction. The small, rounded structures built with organic integrity with the surrounding jungle became more angular and rose upward. Cars appeared alongside the bicycles in the back reaches of their property.
We had been waiting for four years for permits to build on our land on Tulum beach, so we had time to explore building styles and materials, as we navigated along the coast. We were mostly interested in how homeowners expressed their aesthetic preferences in style and use of construction materials that were available. This exploration, along with the creative, hands-on genius of my husband, Lou Pintkowski, guided us as we built La Selva Mariposa, our little jewel in the jungle. The ground swell of green builders and use of sustainable resources had not yet bowed its head here in Tulum, so we chose materials to begin with that were close at hand, like limestone rock and wood from the jungle. We introduced the construction crew, all from Macario Gómez, to a variety of other building materials and a trailer full of power tools that we brought with us from the United States.
Our travels eventually took us away from the coast and into the Yucatán and states beyond. We have never lost our passion for discovering the architectural treasures along the way; from the ruined church in Kikil, to the fabulous renovated hacienda, Casa de los Venados, in Valladolid.
If you travel from Tulum to Rio Lagartos and San Felipe you will be taking a step back in time. There you will see that the elements of northern coastal architecture are simple. You will see the many colors and materials that are used to build and decorate the homes and shops in these two tiny fishing communities. The personalities of the owners are surely reflected in their choices. You will see how the structures are starting to be modified and some are advancing upward. What you won't see is the use of modern building methods and advanced technology. I am wondering, as time passes and pioneering architects and builders from more affluent areas of Mexico move into this area surrounded by natural wonders (this is a major nesting ground for native and migratory birds), if the character and respect for the environment that exists today will change and a new image emerge there just as it is doing in Tulum. For now, I suggest you pack a cooler and journey from Tulum to this hidden corner of the Yucatán Peninsula and see it for yourself.
Mari Pintkowski and her husband are owners/operators of www.laselvamariposa.com. To read Mari's books go to www.amazon.com or read the many articles now published in www.sac-be.com.