The 83-year-old songwriter and singing star, who is of Maya descent, called the ambitious but controversial infrastructure project a “point of rapprochement between education, customs, families and economic development.”
He recalled his childhood, when his mestizo Mayan grandmother traveled to Ticul in wooden wagons hauled by a steam locomotive.
“We had the Yucatecan pride of having the United Railroads of Yucatan … Only one train united us among ourselves,” he recalled.
The official figures speak of the creation of about 300,000 jobs resulting from the tracks connecting the states of Tabasco, Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo and Yucatan.
Other representatives of indigenous communities worry about displaced communities and damage to the environment, but Manzanero sees it differently.
“Something that those who oppose do not think about is the commercial benefits of the people who stay on the road … the artisans of each town will have the opportunity to sell and eat,” he said.
“I don’t forget my childhood, the mince pies and a recycled soda bottle filled with tamarind juice that my countrymen sold when the train stopped.”
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has planned a regional referendum Dec. 15, allowing Maya communities to vote on whether to proceed with the project. Turnout for a national referendum was low, but 90% of those who did vote indicated support for the project.
The rail project cost is estimated at up to $8 billion and could be up and running in three years.
Text and photo: Agencies