The old man and the sea, Don Manuel Gozalez can be found every morning on the Tulum beach watching the sunrise and reflecting on his story that started in Campeche and brought him to Tulum over 30 years ago. He has watched the city change, grow and become the popular beach town that it is today. Has Tulum changed? Sure, but the areas that make Tulum the beautiful destination it is, remain the same. The sun continues to rise, with its vibrant colors and the sun continues to set, behind the trees of the jungle.
The old man and the sea reflects on Tulum
With over 30 years of Tulum living under his belt, Don Manuel Gonzalez continues to call his beach hut home. He lives just south of the ruins near the fisherman’s cooperative with his boat, his memories and desire to continue the community focus Tulum is known for. Born in Campeche in 1921, Don Manuel has seen many changes to the coast in the Mayan Riviera. He has lived in Playa del Carmen, Isla Contoy, haciendas near Merida and always comes back to his nest, as he likes to refer to it as, on the beaches of Tulum.
His father moved to Tulum over 30 years ago to farm chicle, the gum of the chicle tree that was exported to the United States for candy production, the Adams chewing gum, chiclets. He fell in love with the community in Tulum and recalls the life that he lived when there were few roads to Merida, a vibrant farming community that grew fruits and vegetables, and cultivated honey in the depths of the jungle. He wandered off to other coastal areas and always came back, drawn by the sound of the waves, the colors of the sunrise and the community that works so hard to create a life for all of its residents.
Reflections on modern-day Tulum
Don Manuel Gonzalez has mixed feelings about modern-day Tulum. He loves that he can still enjoy the beauty of the ocean. The ocean has been his favorite place and no one can touch the beauty of this. He loves that no one has touched his sunrises. He dreamed of a vibrant cultural community with a cultural center that celebrates the history and traditions of the area, he has lived to see this come to life. The building and continued expansion of vacation accommodations is a natural evolution for any city, town or location. At 91 years old, Don Manuel has witnessed more changes in his life time than many. Change is inevitable and his little piece of paradise is untouched, something very few can say.
Modern day Tulum and the international community that now calls Tulum home, is an interesting change that Don Manuel did not envision. The respect and understanding of the land, ocean and jungle by the new Tulum residents is more than he can ask for. The respect that the small businesses have to protect and preserve the ocean, the jungle, the farming and culture is a blessing.
His belief is that the world lives in cycles and Tulum is not immune to these cycles. His boat, Pampano, has lived the cycle, as it recently washed up onto shore after being swept away over 7 years ago by a hurricane. In the past few weeks, the boat returned, motor gone, boat hull in tact. Did he welcome it back? Of course. He smiles at that fact that the cycle continues, even in modern-day Tulum, as the ocean takes away and provides each and every day.
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