Maria Moreno promised her mother she would always take care of their family home. After her parents died, Ms. Moreno and her husband painted the house’s walls gleaming white and planted a shady grove of coconut trees in the yard.
But the care that went into the home didn’t seem to matter to Mexico’s national tourism agency, Fonatur, when a representative told her last spring that it would need to be demolished. The government is making way for a massive infrastructure project called the Maya Train, which it wants to build along the power lines that rise beside Ms. Moreno’s home in this steamy village about 170 miles west of Cancún.
The Maya Train is a pet project of leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who won the presidency on a populist ticket to create jobs and improve the lives of Mexico’s rural poor and Indigenous populations.
But how the project has been carried out so far – with complaints of limited community consultations, incomplete environmental studies, and threats to displace many of the president’s most vulnerable supporters – has soured some voters against the president, including Ms. Moreno, who voted for him back in 2018.
“President Lopez Obrador has really deceived us,” says Ms. Moreno, who works as a nurse. “We were excited about change, but now things are going from bad to worse.” Ms. Moreno currently lives in nearby Campeche, but always planned to move back to her family’s home in retirement.
The Mayan Train is meant to extend around the Yucatan Peninsula in a roughly 950-mile loop that links tourism centers like the colonial city of Mérida and the hipster paradise of Tulum. Mr. López Obrador promotes the train as a way to reduce poverty in the Yucatan: The government estimates it will increase tourism revenue by 20% and create more than 1 million jobs.
Most of the railway will run on existing tracks that need modernizing. The government plans to construct the rest on public and private land, which means eviction for some in Mexico’s Yucatan.
The government, which broke ground on the project in 2020, would not provide specific numbers on how many households it will relocate, saying the estimate of homes that could be affected is constantly changing. But Kalycho Escoffié, a lawyer who assists families facing displacement, estimates more than 2,000 homes will be demolished to clear space for the train.