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Saturday, January 28, 2023

The future of Xcaret’s new theme park in Valladolid remains uncertain

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
The Xibalba theme park is themed around the mythic Mayan realm of the underworld and eight cenotes. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Construction at Xibalba theme park on the outskirts of Valladolid has been completed for some time now.

Yet there is no firm date for the park to finally open after a surprise inspection by federal authorities last year detected several problems.

“The developers used dynamite to destroy walls between cenotes to create an artificial river or corridor. This was never approved and constitutes a major violation,” federal environmental authorities said in a press statement

Mexico is now demanding 7 million pesos (roughly US$360,000) to undo the damage caused before a panel can be convened to decide if the park will be allowed to open in 2023. 

For its part, Grupo Xcaret argues that “All park development is based on a model that ensures the conservation, promotion, and development of our natural, socio-cultural, and economic heritage for future generations.” But Grupo Xcaret has never formally denied the destruction of the cenote walls with the use of explosives. 

The project was first unveiled to the public in 2020 when Gov. Vila Dosal visited the construction site, which he described as “truly beautiful and sure to create many well-paying jobs”. 

Yucatán’s Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal tours Xibalba park with Grupo Xcaret director and founder Miguel Quintana Pali. Photo: Courtesy

Earlier: Xcaret, Mayan archaeology in a Disneyland setting

Sources have also told Yucatán Magazine that construction of Xibalba park began before permits of any kind had been procured, as the project has the backing of the governor. 

Xibalba park has also been met with skepticism from members of Valladolid’s business community who consider that the attraction does not mesh with Valladolid’s small-town, low-impact tourism vibe. 

“Valladolid is getting more popular, but it’s still a small place. We have no interest in being like Tulum or Cancun. Let tourists come, but let’s not ruin our community with these sorts of mega projects,” said local tour guide Manuel Cano. 

Grupo Xcaret is a major player in the Yucatán Peninsula’s tourism and hospitality industry. The company’s Riviera Maya theme parks include Xel-Há, Xenses, Xplor, and their flagship park, Xcaret. 

Xcaret’s tours division also organizes day trips to archaeological sites, which it brands by placing an X in the name of the site, for instance, Xichén for Chichén Itzá. During the past decade and a half, the company has been on a buying spree, purchasing dozens of haciendas and cenotes across the Peninsula.

However, critics of the company are concerned that the company has become too large and begun to jeopardize the region’s environment and cultural identity through a process referred to as Xcaret-ización.

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