Recent events in Tulum are perhaps the embodiment of the adage ‘trouble in paradise’.
Tulum, situated in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, has long been considered one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Miles of vast are surrounded by clear blue ocean, with the town centre boasting no shortage of beautiful villas, charming bars and restaurants and bustling Mexican markets. It’s the ideal spot for those seeking an unforgettable getaway with luxury at every turn.
However, there is an uglier side to the area – a side that appears to have reached its boiling point in recent weeks.
Due to a long-term underlying struggle with drugs cartels throughout the area, the crime rate in Tulum has been on the rise for some time, with a sharper surge in drug-related criminal activity since the start of the year. Often, these events are not highly publicised, kept as quiet as possible in an effort to conserve the area’s tourism industry – for that reason, residents and those who are travelling in the area at the time have been taking to social media to warn others of the worrying criminal events happening in Tulum.
Here are just a few of the recent incidents, as explained by select news outlets and social media testimony.
Police officers in the area were recently charged with murder following the death of a woman during her arrest.
Victoria Salazar, 36, was being restrained by police as she was arrested for ‘disorderly conduct’ in the area on March 27th. In an effort to restrain Salazar, a female police officer was captured on camera kneeling on the woman’s neck – causing injuries to Salazar which would sadly prove fatal.
Victoria Salazar’s final moments have been compared to those of 46-year-old George Floyd, who was killed in disturbingly similar circumstances in May 2020. His death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin – who is currently being tried for murder – sparked global conversations regarding the use of police brutality with people of colour.
Salazar herself was a Salvadoran refugee, leading to allegations that her nationality may have contributed to her treatment at the hands of police. However, the official charge given to the police officer who caused Salazar’s death was femicide – the murder of a woman because she is a woman.
Sadly, this isn’t the first case of severe police brutality in Mexico – or in Tulum, specifically.
There have been several firearm attacks within the area recently, with two occurring within just six hours of one another.
The first, occurring at around 5pm on March 29th, saw four people seriously injured. The very same evening, a separate firearm attack saw a female victim – who was, according to reports, not a Mexican national – shot in the chest.
Gun attacks are a common problem within Tulum, due in part to lax gun control laws and exacerbated by the expansive drugs network within the area.
Drugs-related activity within Tulum has been a long-occurring problem but has soared even further in recent years. In fact, recent data suggests that drugs-related crimes in the area have increased by 783% between 2019 and 2021.
With the fear that this activity will do severe damage to the area’s reputation as an idyllic destination for tourists from across the globe, authorities in the area have increased their efforts to crack down on cartel activity tenfold – leading to rising tensions and heightened violence amongst cartels, police and residents in Tulum.
The worry for many is that this sharp increase in drugs-related crimes and the response from authorities has started to prove dangerous for those travelling to Tulum on vacation, as tourists in the area are increasingly reported to have witnessed crime and/or violence, as well as the resulting arrests.
However, the booming tourism industry is thought by some to be the very reason for such a sharp increase in drugs-related activity around Tulum, with outlets reporting that the ‘party drugs’ provided to visitors in the area are one of the main pulling factors for gangs setting up in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Is It Safe To Visit Tulum?
Despite the rise in criminal and violent activity within the area, tourists are advised that Tulum remains a safe destination to visit – provided that those travelling to Tulum remain vigilant.
Advice from established travel writers commonly states that tourists should avoid the destination if travelling alone and should remain mindful during their trip – pay special attention not to veer too far off the beaten track, avoiding badly lit residential areas with few safety measures. Visitors are also advised to avoid drugs of any kind in the area.
However, if travelling with a group and behaving sensibly throughout the trip, Tulum still remains a favourite amongst those looking to avoid Mexico – it simply comes down to doing plenty of research and remaining vigilant.
Read More: The Non-Tulum Beaches You Need To Visit