Activists install antimonumento denouncing destructive Maya Train project in CDMX’s iconic Avenida Reforma

November 23, 2022

  • 120kg stone plaque denounces human and environmental abuses of government megaproject set to bulldoze through precious Mexican rainforest
  • Biologist from affected Yucatán region came to CDMX to witness the placing of the plaque and speak up about the effects on the environment

Mexico City – Civil society groups who question the Mexico’s Maya Train tourist project today gathered in Mexico City’s iconic Avenida Reforma to witness the unveiling of a plaque denouncing the scheme’s human and environmental abuses. 

Representatives of six human rights groups, who are against the human and environmental violations of the project, watched as the plaque was placed on the street known as a focal point for antimonumentos - a key location for social movement art in Mexico City. The plaque was placed very close to the antimonumento '+43', a tribute to the Ayotzinapa case, when 43 Mexican students disappeared during a violent government crackdown in 2014.

Today’s action, staged by a group of local and international environmental and human rights organizations, intends to draw attention to the devastating impacts of the tourist megaproject planned for precious rainforest in Mexico’s Yucatán province. Experts say the scheme will irrevocably harm biosphere hotspots such as Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the Americas, as well as an area that’s home to approximately 600 wild jaguars.

The project also poses a severe threat to Indigenous people and local communities in the Yucatán region. In addition to the irreversible environmental damage, Maya Indigenous communities argue that the project violates their international right to free prior and informed consent. The UN High Commission for Human Rights in Mexico found that the consultations conducted by the Mexican Government were flawed and that the process “has not complied with all international standards on human rights.” 

Groups involved in the action include Kanan Derechos Humanos, SumOfUs, Greenpeace Mexico, Racismo MX, Cejil and el Consejo Civil Mexicano Para la Silvicultura Sostenible. Roberto Rojo, a biologist from the Yucatán region, also watched the unveiling of the plaque and spoke about the impact of the project on local ecology.

Rojo added: “In Mexico we lost 95% of our high forest in the last generation, we have only five places of virgin and well-preserved forest left in the country. The Maya Train is undermining three of them: Northern Quintana Roo, the Muyil jungle and the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. This project is producing unparalleled devastation and ecocide in a megadiverse country, undermining ecosystem health, fragile underground aquifers and biodiversity. It’s being done extremely irresponsibly – without the necessary permits and studies, and the change of land use is being done in an illegal, taxing, improvisational and corrupt manner.”

The plaque, which is engraved in a stone specific to the Yucatán region, depicts a Ceiba, a sacred tree for the Maya people, breaking train tracks with the words: “Here we leave our words of warning that, in the name of what you call 'development' and 'progress', the Train Maya is being built despite the fact it is evicting local communities, extinguishing species, devastating the jungle and threatening ecosystems. Only you will be able to tell, in the future, if this project was really worth it..."

The action comes a day after the consortium of companies (Grupo Mexico and Acciona) building the train line admitted that they pulled out of their contract to build Section 5 South of the Mayan Train because of “the technical impossibility of carrying out the project in 11 months and delivering it in July 2023.”  The group went on to say that the complexity and haste imposed on the completion of the project.” was also a factor in withdrawing from the project.

The consortium is the latest in a long list of companies and experts denouncing the controversial train line. Despite growing opposition, the Mexican President has restated his commitment to the controversial project. 

Almost 145,000 SumOfUs members signed a global-wide petition asking the European companies Renfe, Ineco and Deutsche Bahn to end their role in the construction of the Maya Train. 

Alys Samson Estapé, SumOfUs campaigner said: “This project will bulldoze acres of precious rainforest, trampling on the rights of Indigenous and local communities, and destroying the habitat of hundreds of jaguars. But if these brave communities are going to keep fighting to protect their land, we will too. We are here to represent the over 140,000 people from around the world to denounce the human and environmental rights violations of this harmful project and to call out companies’ colonial practices to create this project. The plaque at Avenida Reforma next to other antimonumentos is a symbol of this fight.”.

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