Sierra Papacal is a tiny community of roughly 1,100 inhabitants and 25 miles from Mérida’s urban core.
But despite being so close, this tiny community and the wetlands surrounding it feel like a world away from Yucatán’s capital, despite the fact that it is within Mérida’s metropolitan area.
Because it is so remote, wildlife in the area is abundant, which makes sense given its large concentration of cenotes and wetlands.
The area is also home to several abandoned haciendas, archaeological sites, and research facilities like the CICY.
But what truly makes Sierra Papacal stand out are its gorgeous wetlands which provide water and shelter to hundreds of species of plants and animals.
But despite its beauty, the delicate balance of Sierra Papacal’s ecosystem has come under increased risk given the construction of new infrastructure projects, housing, and natural gas lines.
“Given its proximity to both Mérida and Chuburna, combined with its unique geologic properties, Sierra Papacal could be described as the worst place in the entirety of Yucatán to build large housing projects,” said a Ph.D. in Biology candidate working in the area who preferred to remain anonymous.
According to the expert, there are two main problems with construction in the Sierra Papacal region. First, because the ground is so wet, the large pylons needed to create firm foundations disrupt the natural flow of nutrients in the area’s water and soil.
Secondly, the construction of roads and highways act like barriers that alter the pH balance of the water, leading to both desertification and flooding.
But despite scientists’ warnings, developments in the area continue to spring up and are likely to be visible in the entire region within the short term.
In Por Esto!, locals decried large-scale development in the area as tantamount to ecocide.
“Of course, we want to see our community prosper, but this kind of approach is not right for us. The only thing it will accomplish will be to destroy the beauty that attracts people to this area in the first place,” said Martina Ek, a local activist based in Sierra Papacal.