As I was admiring the beautiful sunset overlooking the iridescent ocean, I sipped my ice cold virgin piña colada and let the soft winds brush against my face. My family and I were vacationing in the city of Isla Mujeres, directly North of Cancún, Mexico. Here, I have spent the last few days of my Winter break relaxing on the beaches of the Mexican coast where I enjoyed all the benefits of staying at an all inclusive resort.
In a survey taken at The Weber School, about 3 in 4 people have been to an all inclusive resort at some point in their life. Many Jewish families go on vacation at all inclusive resorts around South and Central American for Winter, Spring, and Summer break. Around the area that I visited, the small town of Isla Mujeres has an overwhelming amount of poverty and homelesses. This became my main focus as I was on my journey home to Atlanta.
My family and I were driving on the outskirts of Isla Mujeres on our way to the airport when I noticed a little three year old boy begging for money on the side of the road. Immediately, I thought this disturbing sight must have an explanation, yet I was disheartened to find out that this is normal around the area. Many all inclusive resorts are placed in the center of impoverished towns around the coast of Mexico, where there is a very consistent population of homeless people.
Rodrigo Cervantes, the Mexico City Bureau Chief for KJZZ-NPR, gave his opinions on the poverty around the outskirts of Mexican vacation islands. Cervantes states, “Mexico has the irony of being one of the 20 wealthier nations, but also with millions of citizens in poverty — not necessarily extreme poverty, although the conditions of the poor here might seem shockingly different from what you see in the U.S.”
There are ways that the United States can help to decrease this surplus of poverty. Cervantes elaborates on this topic, stating, “If you ask me, I think that education is power and collaboration makes us strong. History proves that the more we learn and the more we work together, the better we become as a society and as a species. I am a true believer that we can change things for good if we follow that. It could be in a trailer park in Georgia, in a Mayan village in Yucatán or wherever. If people like you stay concerned about the problems we face while taking specific actions to change things for good, we will survive… and we will be better.”
When asked about how poverty can be lessened in general, he claimed, “Many governments and even corporations like hotel chains in local communities put programs to try to help people in poverty. Something that helps a lot these communities is actually the visit of tourists like you. Tourism attracts investment, jobs and money to these communities. There are also international and national nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity that help in these rural areas sometimes.”
Although vacationing on the beach is one of the most popular break spots, it is important to consider what happens beyond these glorious destinations and be cognizant of the hardworking individuals working at the resort, for we do not know what hardships they are going through in their lives. So the next time you are vacationing at an all inclusive resort, spare the piña colada and start the conversation.