The New Cancun in Sinaloa? from jubilation to disappointment


Playa Espíritu in Teacapan Sinaloa

The government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has proposed to raffle the land of the CIP Playa Espíritu, in Escuinapa. 

Playa Espíritu: La historia de corrupción en un proyecto turístico fallido  de Sinaloa

The residents of Teacapan and its municipal seat, Escuinapa, in Sinaloa, along with other smaller communities in that area of ​​virgin beaches, full of palm trees and crabs, waited for development and prosperity.

In 2009, then-President Felipe Calderón made a promise of prosperity in Escuinapa. But it never came.

Today converted into a project to which private investment never arrived, the federal government has already opened the possibility of holding a raffle similar to the one alluding to the presidential plane and raffle all that land in lots.

On February 17, 2009, when he laid the first stone of the Integrally Planned Center (CIP) “Playa Espíritu”, then-president Felipe Calderón said: “We want investors to come here who are looking for opportunities for their clients, for development, for hotels, condominiums, a Marina, that allows tourist business and generate employment and economic activity for our people “

Calderón presumed that the mega tourism project would be twice the size of Cancun and that more than 7 billion pesos of federal resources would be invested in it to encourage private investment.

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On a land four times larger than the University City of UNAM in Mexico City, the Playa Espíritu project, located an hour and a half by road from the Mazatlán airport, would have 12 kilometers of beach, almost 44 thousand rooms, 5 thousand 500 homes and 118 hectares of golf courses, as well as shopping centers and even channels for internal maritime navigation.

Adriana is a waitress at the Mr. Wayne restaurant, which has existed for more than 30 years on the boardwalk of Teacapan, a small fishing town located at the southern end of Sinaloa, close to Nayarit, where few tourists go. Less, now in a pandemic. But she has a good memory and remembers the clients she serves very well.

In that area, poverty is seen in its streets that look unpaved, full of puddles and mud.

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“I remember when Mr. Calderón came, he came to lay the first stone, and here there was movement; I met several businessmen, I attended to them, and then they kept coming because they were interested, the people who came, saw that it was a virgin beach, that it was a lung here, Teacapan for the world ”, he recalls.

The 2,381 hectares of that land were acquired in that six-year term by the Trust for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur) from the former Sinaloan governor Antonio Toledo Corro, to whom they paid one hundred million dollars.

Today, that purchase “good for the private sector and bad for the public treasury,” as President Andrés Manuel López Obrador described it, is condemned to oblivion for that reason.

But at its start, Calderón Hinojosa ensured the success of the plan and said that by 2025 150 thousand jobs would be generated a year, which would reach up to 3 million tourists, leaving about 3 billion dollars of annual economic income for the benefit of the surroundings.

That day, amid applause and smiles, a plaque commemorating the start of the works was placed.

More than 11 years have passed since that promise, the year 2020 is about to end and the Playa Espíritu project began, but it never materialized.

“They sent for people, bricklayers, and there they go to work, and the children of the family, studying tourism, English, gastronomy, to be able to work in the hotels that were going to be there because that was already a fact”, Don Melesio Rojas talks, an inhabitant of Escuinapa, who comments that the news of this project brought hope and joy to the inhabitants of the area because they would compete with Mazatlán and would have their own tourism development.

Remedio Vargas, another inhabitant of the area, agrees with him: the project would do justice to Escuinapa, a municipality that lives off the fruit packing plants –mango, above all–, which generates temporary jobs, lasting three months maximum, and the shrimp fishing, which, he says, is looted by middlemen.

José Barrón, owner of the Mr. Wayne restaurant, in Teacapan, says that at that time Canadians came to buy land adjacent to the beach, as it was also planned to build a road by the sea that would connect Playa Espíritu with Teacapan.

“Before, nobody cared about those lands because they only produced coconuts, but with the project, they bought five, seven, ten million; the entire shoreline of the beach is bought, ”he says.

According to information provided by Fonatur, the second half of Calderón’s administration was in the process of launching the Playa Espíritu project but faced fierce opposition from environmental groups who claimed a serious environmental impact for trying to build on marshes.

Only until 2014, during the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, according to Fonatur, did the works begin.

An express hotel, with 53 rooms, and a beach house were built, which would serve investors who came to see the land, stay, and negotiate there. They never cared.

In addition, some green areas were built, 40.5 kilometers of internal roads, water treatment plants, sidewalks, a civic square, a 500-meter boardwalk, drainage, and lighting. But to date, there is no electricity.

Even so, at least 35 Fonatur employees are currently assigned to CIP for maintenance and private security tasks. The pool of the express hotel, which nobody uses, is always cleaned by them.

Despite the few advances, until 2018, according to Fonatur, 4.7 billion pesos of federal public resources had been allocated out of the 7 thousand 313 million that was planned, but the CIP is not finished, it has not been opened to the operation and there is not a single peso of private investment. It is a ghost project.

“This land is recast there, where there is no airport … I don’t know how they buy land like this, the fact is that we inherited that land and no one wants to buy it,” said López Obrador, on September 21, who has decided not to invest in it. more to Playa Espíritu and raffle off the 5 thousand 500 lots that would be used for housing.

The disappointment

Ignacio Quevedo owns a hotel in Escuinapa and a few years ago he was director of Economic Development for that municipality. For the hotel sector, the news of a tourist destination of that size “was the trigger we were waiting for,” he says.

But after the anticipation generated by the announcement in the early years, came disappointment.

“For now, there was no budget, it ended and they no longer sent them a budget and they left everything abandoned,” says Melesio Rojas, a resident of Escuinapa, who says that the impetus among those who sent their children to study careers of the tourist bouquet.

“It became a bunker because no one from Escuinapa has access to the beaches or the land where the CIP is located, but we are not seeing progress either, we don’t know if it will be invested,” adds Quevedo, owner of the IQ hotel in Escuinapa.

But the CIP brought more than disappointment: due to the presence of the CIP, federal resources for tourism programs were concentrated by Fonatur and the municipality does not fall for anything to support the tourism sector that does operate.

Environmental complications

The current federal government has identified that the project has technical and environmental weaknesses that justify ceasing to invest in it.

According to Fonatur, among the technical weaknesses it faces are the shortage of drinking water in the area, a sandy subsoil that complicates the foundation and requires the use of piles, the remote location of material banks for fillings, risk of flooding and Unfavorable conditions for maritime works due to the orography with steep slopes.

The environmental weaknesses currently considered by Fonatur are the loss of mangroves, predation of the sea turtle, loss of forest vegetation, pests and diseases in palms, loss of the coastal dune ecosystem, the presence of pesticides and fecal coliforms (on one side there is an agricultural ranch), hypersalinity and the shallow and polluted aquifer.

Raffle lots?

The idea of ​​raffling the housing lots went well with some people from Escuinapa who consider President Lopez Obrador’s proposal a success.

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“If for a cheap little piece, they give you a ‘lot’, so to speak, there you relieve yourself a little”, says Don Mario Quevedo, a resident of Escuinapa who remembers that the land that today is occupied by the unfinished CIP “was a wonderful thing, pure tropical forest… but the machines arrived ”.

He says that if they are going to sell that land again, which was the ranch of former governor Toledo Corro, hopefully now the region will benefit.

Don José Barrón, the owner of Mr. Wayne, in Teacapan has the opposite opinion: “it cannot be stopped, there is a lot of investment there”.

However, he has little hope that the government will look back at them.

“Yes, more people would come to see this little town, which is a fishing ground, the beaches here are abandoned,” he says.

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“Look, since Hurricane Willa passed, there is the boardwalk because the water entered, knocked all this down; there it is, they have not fixed it, they have us abandoned, we are waiting for another hurricane to come so that it will finish us off “, she says and laughs, with the resignation of those who waited for the promised bonanza.

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