A tranquil beach scene with people enjoying shallow waters and a clear sky.

Inside Cancun’s Hidden World: Local Lives vs. Tourist Dreams

In Cancun, a bustling hub of the Mexican Caribbean, millions of tourists flock to enjoy the turquoise sea and luxury amenities. However, for locals like Yazmin and Rosalina, the beach is a luxury they can only afford to visit a few times a year.

They live in Villas Otoch Paraiso, a residential area situated roughly 30 kilometers from Kukulkan Boulevard, the city's extravagant hotel district. This city, founded 53 years ago, is a stark contrast to their daily reality.

In 2023 alone, Cancun airport welcomed 32.7 million visitors, with 63% of them being foreigners. They come to visit not only Cancun, but also nearby resorts like Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

However, few of these tourists would venture to Villas Otoch. Established in 2007 and home to around 40,000 residents, it carries the unfortunate reputation of being the "most dangerous neighborhood in Cancun."

Yazmin Terán, a 41-year-old school teacher, recalls the excitement she and her family felt when they moved here 15 years ago from Oaxaca in the south. They were drawn by the prospect of a better-paying job in the thriving tourist industry for her husband.

"When you see the beaches, the tourist spots, the hotel zone on TV, it's breathtaking," she says. "But when you get here to Cancun, you realize that not everything is as it seems. The beautiful part is confined to the hotel zone."

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Her sentiment echoes the reality of many residents in Cancun. Despite living in a world-renowned vacation hotspot, they are often unable to enjoy the very amenities that draw tourists from around the globe.