Tony & Cheri's PlayaZone

Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

  • Subscribe

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 859,137 hits
  • Pages

  • Networked Blogs

Posts Tagged ‘hurricane’

Trying to Reason with the Hurricane Season

Posted by Tony & Cheri on June 5, 2014

It happens every year on June 1st: the annual hurricane season arrives. Officially, the hurricane season (or the tropical rainy season or storm season…whichever you want to call it) runs from June 1st until December 1st. And every year, many people ask us here at the Luna Blue about how this affects travel to our beautiful part of the world.

People unfamiliar with weather patterns south of the border often wonder if it is safe to travel at all during this time. They also worry that if they do visit, their vacation might be ruined by constant rain. The reality is that with some planning and precautions, travelers can enjoy summer in paradise. Here are some facts and helpful hints about visiting Playa del Carmen during this time of year.

Great Weather and Low Prices

Summer can be a great time to vacation in Playa del Carmen. The air temperature during June, July and August is generally in the high 80’s during the day and the mid-70’s at night. The water temperature is slightly less, with average temperatures in the low 80’s. In other words, the days are warm and long, the nights comfortable and the Caribbean Sea is perfect for swimming.

The summer months also see fewer tourists, so the beaches, restaurants, bars, and tours are less crowded. There are some days you may have a part of the beach all to yourself.

In addition fewer tourists means lower prices. Hotels and tours in particular will offer lower prices during this time period.

Of course, the downside of traveling in summer is the threat of rain and storms.  However it is important to remember that rain storms do not occur every day or even every week.

We Have it All…Rain and Sunshine

We do get summer storms which can last for several days. That can certainly put a damper on any vacation. However, the average number of days of rain in the summer months of June-Aug. is 16 days per month, only slightly higher than in the rest of the year.

In other words, these months have about the same number of sunny days as rainy ones. And of course a forecast of rain doesn’t mean there will be rain from morning until night. In the tropics we often have rain showers or a thunderstorm sweep in off the Caribbean Sea only to quickly pass though, leaving the rest of the day bright and sunny.

As for tropical storms and hurricanes, the truth is they don’t threaten Playa del Carmen very often.

These types of storms occur every year in the Caribbean Sea. Some years there are more than others. This year the prediction by the experts is that we will have fewer storms than normal.

Playa del Carmen Has Not Been Struck by a Hurricane Since 2005

There will absolutely be some large storms between now and December somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean sea. However not all tropical storms become hurricanes, and not all hurricanes grow to be major storms that threatens life and property (a Category 3 storm or greater).

Not all hurricanes will make landfall, and of those that do threaten areas of land, few if any will be in the area of Mexico’s Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen. The last hurricane to make landfall on Playa was almost a decade ago with Wilma in 2005.

The established historical tracks of summer storms in the Caribbean do NOT pass over Playa del Carmen in the months of June, July, August, October, and November. Storm tracks do cross the Riviera Maya in September, which is our wettest month of the year and the month when the vast majority of hurricanes and tropical storms happen in the Caribbean.

This is not to say that major storm will never hit Playa. We are simply saying that statistically it is a rare event.

Avoiding a Vacation Disaster

But what happens if a major storm does threaten to come ashore near Playa del Carmen? If you are already here on vacation you may have several options. The first is to leave town. As hurricanes build out over the ocean before moving towards land they are usually seen days in advance, allowing for evacuation of those who wish to leave.

Or if you are in a secure location, or the storm is not of great strength, you may be able to simply wait it out in your hotel or in a designated shelter area. Hurricanes are usually fast moving storms that sweep through in a day or two.

If you are planning a trip and a major storm is threatening before your arrival, you may want to change your travel plans. However be aware that most airlines, hotels, and resorts do NOT usually offer refunds for cancellations or changes due to weather problems.

Because of this we strongly suggest that anyone traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season ALWAYS purchase insurance which will cover your costs if weather keeps you from traveling. That way, if you do have to cancel or change your vacation plans it won’t be a total loss.

Getting the Right Weather Information

No one can tell you with any certainty what the weather will be like in Playa del Carmen (or anywhere else) next week or next month. Trying to determine in June what the weather will be for the second week of August is simply guesswork. However you can keep an eye on the weather in the immediate future by checking several reputable weather websites:

These sites will provide you up to the minute detailed information about weather in the area.

We hope you now see that with a little planning and some basic precautions there is no reason you cannot plan your summer vacation in the paradise of Playa Del Carmen. And remember… a margarita sipped sitting under an umbrella tastes just as good whether it is rainy or sunny outside.

Happy travels!


Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

No Eye….No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 28, 2011

Hurricane Rina image by National Hurricane Center
Here in Playa del Carmen, we’ve been waiting for days for Hurricane Rina to appear.  A week ago no one had even heard of Rina. Then within the last 72 hours, we thought we might have a Category 4 hurricane, then a Category 3, then a 2, then a 1 and then….as it turns out….just a tropical storm. That’s life in the tropics!

It’s 5:30 pm Playa time, Thursday, and it appears the rain has finally begun.  Still no wind, and as of now still not all that much rain.  To our knowledge, no one here is without power. Now supposedly the brunt of what’s left of Rina is scheduled to pass by us around 2 am tomorrow morning.  The storm is much weaker than anticipated, having lost its eye (no hay – inside joke if you speak Spanish), and the latest word has it passing just offshore, to the east of Cozumel island.

That’s all great news.  Everyone prepared for a hurricane and are now facing just a tropical storm.  Ho hum.   The locals are all posting on Facebook about how bored they are.  But better safe than sorry.

But wait…there’s more!  A look at the tracking map shows Rina passing offshore tonight but then making a big loop out in the Caribbean – going up past Cancun then circling back down past us again (on Sunday) and then heading south to Belize.  This is quite unusual for a hurricane but is probably making those in Florida and the Gulf states pretty happy.  That means we’ll probably have some wet weather throughout the weekend but not the hurricane we had anticipated.

Stay safe everyone, and remember:  no storm is gonna keep us from throwing a kick-ass Halloween party at the Luna Blue Bar on Monday night.

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Hurricane Rina Weakens as it Nears Playa del Carmen!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 27, 2011

Hurricane Rina image by
When you’re sitting in the path of a hurricane, you hope for any little bit of good news. Today we got some. Hurricane Rina is starting to weaken!

Twenty four hours ago we were looking at predictions that a Category 3 or possibly 4 hurricane might strike dead center in the Playa del Carmen area. Since that time, weather conditions have changed dramatically, and Hurricane Rina has begun the slow process of weakening. She is now a Category 1 hurricane, and both and the National Hurricane Center are predicting that she will not regain strength before reaching the Yucatan. A category 1 hurricane is not considered to be a major hurricane. Weatherunderground is also predicting that once the storm makes contact with Cozumel it will diminish to a tropical storm as it moves northeast towards Cuba.

This is good news for all of us here on the Yucatan peninsula. However, even a category 1 hurricane is something to be cautious about. High winds and surging waves can still cause damage. We’d like to send the word out to anyone in the Yucatan coastal area to stay inside once the storm reaches us. High winds can turn any loose object on the street into a deadly missile, and surging waves can come onto the beach very quickly–faster than a person can react to get away. Please, under no circumstances should you go down to the beach to watch the storm.

Although this is all good news for the resort areas of the Riviera Maya, it must be remembered that a category 1 hurricane or even a tropical storm can have devastating effects on the rural areas of Mexico and central America. Eighteen people have already died in Honduras from flooding associated with Hurricane Rina. Massive amounts of rain in Playa del Carmen and Cancun may be an inconvenience to tourists but may turn deadly in small inland villages that are not equipped to deal with such storms. Visitors here should never think of Mexico solely as the popular resort areas. Our thoughts and prayers go to those less fortunate citizens of our adopted country who will be suffering as this storm passes through.

Before the news of the hurricane’s diminishing strength, Playa was getting ready for the storm. As we drove around town today, we saw a number of businesses with large glass windows beginning to put up plywood covers. In Walmart, supplies like toilet paper and large jugs of water were stacked prominently in the center of the store. We heard reports from friends that such diverse items as tuna and disposable diapers were in short supply. We ourselves only went shopping for dog food, flashlights, extra candles, duct tape and BBQ potato chips. We found everything on our list readily available.

We went down to the beach to see the preparations taking place at Mamita’s Beach Club. The building was closed up and had been covered with heavy canvas shutters over the entire front facing the water. The beach itself was empty. Normally it is filled with beach chairs, umbrellas, tables and scantily clad people sipping margaritas. Today it was just sand and surf. The water was actually pretty calm, and there were no waves yet. However in the distance we could see darkening clouds indicating that Rina was out there someplace.

Back at our hotel, we talked with some newly arrived guests about what to expect during the storm. We remarked again at how lucky we are at the type of people who come to the Luna Blue. These particular guests come every year and not only showed up today bearing gifts (a handmade necklace for Cheri and some boxes of See’s candy!) but also immediately offered to help if we needed any work done preparing the hotel for the storm. We love our guests.

In fact we didn’t need any help with storm preparation. Our amazing staff of Alex, Jaime and Julian had gotten everything put away. They stacked the stools in the bar and tied them down. They also tied down all the hanging bar swings so they didn’t crash into things when the wind picks up.

We collected our hotel cats, Frankie and Oso, and gave them the honeymoon suite for the duration of the storm. Litter boxes, food and water were supplied, along with a comfortable double bed to sleep on. Some cats have all the luck.

At this point we’re simply waiting for the storm to arrive. We’re receiving occasional showers, but mostly it’s humid and warm with a slight breeze. The eye of the storm is scheduled to pass near us between 2 pm Thursday and 2 am Friday. We should begin to feel the early effects of the storm sometime tomorrow morning.

We’re hoping if the storm passes through quickly and we are clear of winds and rain by Friday night that we will be able to host a “We Survived Rina” party in our bar with our friend Barefoot Skinny providing the music.

Without question, we’ll be holding our annual Halloween party on Monday night. If you’re in town, please stop by. It should be a lot of fun.

We’ll blog again when there’s more news. In the meantime, follow our regular updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Tony & Cheri

For our latest blog entry on Hurricane Rina, click here: No Eye…No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

Local businesses busy covering large glass windows with plywood

Large displays of drinking water in Walmart

Canvas shutters on Mamita’s Beach Club

Luna Blue Bar furniture stacked and secured

Bar swings tied in place

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Playa del Carmen Readies for Hurricane Rina

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 26, 2011

Hurricane Rina image by National Hurricane Center
Good morning. It is very quiet here in Playa del Carmen this morning–cloudy but no rain or wind. Birds are singing in the jungle and tejones (coatimundi) are scavenging in the street. It’s the calm before the storm. While we had a little rain early evening yesterday, it didn’t rain throughout the night as we had expected. In fact, it didn’t rain at all.

Hurricane Rina is slowing down and it appears she won’t come visiting until tomorrow afternoon. The bad news is most computer models predicting her path have now converged on the Playa/Cozumel area as the point where she will make landfall.

The good news is that this appears to be a small storm.
While the satellite shows clouds extending out over much of the western Caribbean, the actual area of damaging hurricane strength winds is very small. A slight variation or wobble in Rina’s path may spare us from getting hit with those hurricane force winds.

In fact, the image here from the National Hurricane Center shows that there’s a maximum of 50% chance of hurricane force winds anywhere within the storm!

Of course the area of tropical storm force winds area is much larger, and at 100% chance of the center of the storm receiving them, so we almost certainly will get those…meaning a lot of rain and wind. It all comes down to waiting and seeing what path she takes.

We have several guests in the hotel right now, and we have been talking with all of them about what to expect during the storm. We have given them all candles and flashlights (assuming the power will go out) and plenty of extra towels to help with the water coming in. During a hurricane, when the rain is blowing sideways, water seems to come in from everywhere.

The way our hotel is constructed and placed, it makes a pretty good shelter from any storm. It’s set back from the street and is surrounded by buildings on three sides. The concrete structure has been through Hurricane Wilma and some other pretty good storms without any damage whatsoever. Because of this, our guests feel pretty safe remaining here in the hotel rather than going to a public shelter.

We’re telling our guests they should stay in the hotel room their entire time and not try to venture out in the storm. There are many dangers during a hurricane, including being hit with flying debris. We’re making sure they have plenty of drinking water and telling them to have some snacks on hand. All of them seem calm and ready for the adventure. Of course they won’t be alone; our staff will be on hand throughout the storm.

We will get out into town and down to the beach later and report back anything of interest. In the meantime, like most people here, we’re continuing storm preparations while hoping for the best. We’ll be periodically updating our Facebook page throughout the day, so check there for up to date information.

For our latest blog entry on Hurricane Rina, click here: No Eye…No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

Hurricane Rina image by National Hurricane Center

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Hurricane Rina Approaches Playa del Carmen Mexico

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 25, 2011

Hurricane Rina is currently on a projected path to strike the Yucatan Peninsula and possibly Playa del Carmen in the next 48 hours.

We will be regularly posting updates on our Facebook page and on Twitter (@lunabluehotel, #Rina) as the storm nears. We’ll be offering synopses of what we think are dependable sources such as Dr. Jeff Masters at and the National Hurricane Center.

We’ll also be giving a locals’ perspective on what’s happening in Playa del Carmen and will offer comments about our own storm preparation at our hotel and at home.

We’re hoping this will not be a major hurricane. While the storm is growing in intensity, once it makes landfall in Mexico is is expected to diminish in strength. We are hoping for the best.

We’ll keep offering information until the storm arrives, at which point we expect we will lose power. Keep a good thought for all of us here in Playa and on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

Tony & Cheri

For our latest blog entry on Hurricane Rina, click here: No Eye…No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Thinking of New Orleans

Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 31, 2008

Tonight our hearts are in New Orleans.

We have loved New Orleans for many years. It is a special place for us. There is a magical devil-may-care spirit in that city, and we love to drink it in. Whether it is Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Halloween or just a spring weekend in the Quarter, whenever we go to New Orleans life gets crazier, stranger, freer and better.

We have partied with porn stars, danced with vampires and watched ghosts wander home in the pre-dawn darkness. We have been in the crowd to hear the greats of modern music play on the stages of Jazz Fest, and we have walked alone on a cobblestone street following the sounds of a solitary saxophone. We have dined with the social elite at one of the oldest restaurants in America and with transvestites at a greasy hamburger counter down the street. For us, New Orleans is soulful… in every meaning of the word.

We arrived in Playa Del Carmen three years ago as Hurricane Katrina tore our beloved New Orleans apart. And we watched in horror as the City That Care Forgot was herself forgotten by America. We were filled with anger and disgust as the politically powerful, Republican and Democrat, ignored the danger, abandoned the helpless and ran for political cover even as the victims of the storm ran for shelter. The shame should haunt all of us forever.

Statue of Christ, St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans LouisianaA short story by the wonderful James Lee Burke tells of a man who is drowning in Katrina’s floodwaters. As the waters take him away to his death he notices a wooden statue of Jesus is being swept along with him. He talks to the statue in his final moments and remembers the beauty of the place now dying along with him:

“That’s the way it was back then. You woke up in the morning to the smell of gardenias, the electric smell of the streetcars, chicory coffee, and the stone that has turned green with lichen. The light was always filtered through the trees, so it was never harsh, and the flowers bloomed year-round. New Orleans was a poem, man, a song in your heart that never died.

I got only one regret. Nobody ever bothered to explain why nobody came for us.”

~Jesus Out to Sea by James Lee Burke

We didn’t make it back to New Orleans for over a year. But as we started our new life in Playa del Carmen we never forgot the city we loved so much. When we could finally return for a visit in 2007, we found a city destroyed and a people in pain. Places that had existed for generations were shuttered. The empty wreckage of homes was tattooed in paint with the strange code that told other relief workers it had been searched and how many dead could be found inside. People we had known and seen for years were gone–disappeared or dead we would never know. And among those left was sorrow that could not be described. Friends and strangers would tearfully tell us their stories. Waiters and cab drivers would stop working to begin to cry with us, for their families, and for themselves.

Slowly and painfully New Orleans struggled to breathe. And the people stayed. They didn’t give up on themselves. They survived by their own strength and by the love and gifts of good people around the country. By the time we went to Jazz Fest this year, we saw the spirit of the place we loved starting to swell again. It was a joy to behold.

Sadly, tonight New Orleans again faces destruction. As we write this Hurricane Gustav is poised to strike the Gulf Coast just as Katrina did three years ago. Predictions are that it will arrive as a category four hurricane with its deadliest power centered on the levees of New Orleans which are built to only withstand a category three storm. Massive flooding and damage is expected.

Once the storm passes New Orleans will begin again. Of that there is no doubt. But they will need help. We hope that people will answer the call for help without waiting for the politicians and corporations who never came last time. There are many fine charities and organizations already in place. We will post some of them in the days ahead. We will ask the people who know us, or simply know of us through this blog, to try and help. Please help. Do what you can.

And tonight please join us, if only in your hearts, in New Orleans.

Obama/Biden in 2008

Posted in Friends, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Little Hurricane Humor

Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 28, 2008

As hurricanes become part of our daily focus, we thought we’d share some humor from that was posted by our favorite meteorologist, Dr. Jeff Masters, on (click on the title below).

Hurricane Bound For Texas Slowed By Large Land Mass To The South

It’s so true. We once saw a Weather Channel broadcaster exclaim, “Thank goodness the storm hit Mexico!” And of course there’s always our favorite, Fox News, which, after Hurricane Dean missed us last year by a couple of hundred miles, dramatically declared, “Playa del Carmen is destroyed!”


Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Dolly the Dud

Posted by Tony & Cheri on July 21, 2008

Dolly passed through last night and nobody noticed. When we went to bed last night, we left the windows and doors to the bedroom deck open, not only to get some breeze but so we would awake when the storm rolled into town, just in case we were needed at the hotel. We never heard a thing. We were awakened this morning to our usual alarm clock of tropical birds in the banana trees outside our house and of course lots of dog licks. Gypsy always seems amazed that we’re still here every morning. 🙂

During the night, Dolly had decided not to strike Playa del Carmen after all but slipped through the straits between Mexico and Cuba, where the Gulf of Mexico runs into the Caribbean Sea. We got a little rain during the night and a little more today, but it’s not even as strong as a normal thunderstorm. We got lucky, but unfortunately Dolly is still rolling north and now has hurricane potential. Our thoughts are with our friends in Texas where Dolly seems headed next.

As for us, our favorite meteorolist, Dr. Jeff Masters at, says that conditions are building in Africa for another storm system. Hurricanes are born as weather systems off the coast of Africa. Moving westward over the warm waters of the Atlantic and the even warmer waters of the Caribbean Sea, they build in strength and can turn into major storms, even hurricanes. You can be sure we’ll be keeping our eye on this latest situation. However, it’s really nothing new; it’s just life in the tropics for us. As our close and personal friend Jimmy Buffett sings, we’re just “trying to reason with the hurricane season.” 🙂

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Hello, Dolly

Posted by Tony & Cheri on July 21, 2008

Tropical Storm DollyWell, here we are again, blogging about a storm bearing down on us. It’s been almost a year…so we guess it’s about time. Still, Tropical Storm Dolly took us by surprise. It was supposed to be just another band of thunderstorms passing through when it suddenly organized itself into something bigger. It was only about midafternoon today that we discovered Dolly was upgraded to a tropical storm and that her 60+ mph winds were going to make landfall in Playa del Carmen this evening around 11 or 12 pm.

Taking advantage of the unseasonal breeze, we went to lunch at El Pirata on the beach for some of the best Sopa Azteca in Playa and to check out the pre-storm ocean. We ran into some friends and took a few pictures. We wandered back through the crowds to the Luna Blue and found our bar filled with people. Unfortunately, we also found that the thundershowers we had been awaiting had turned into a tropical storm of pretty good force, that it was going to hit in 6 or 7 hours, and the city in its wisdom had declared all alcohol sales prohibited. We made the disappointing announcement to the bar, bought one last round for everyone on us and began a speeded-up version of our pre-storm checklist. With our receptionist Jaime and our bartender Jose assisting, we quickly moved through the hotel taking down hammocks, carrying loungers and chairs to the bodega (storeroom), tying down the columpios (swings) in the bar, and generally securing anything that might swing or blow away in the upcoming winds.

And for the first time, not on our checklist was grabbing Blue and putting her into a room to keep her safe from the storm. 😦 We wiped away a tear over that.

Pre-Dolly clouds on the CaribbeanWhile spreading the news among the guests, we assured them of their safety. After all, this is just a storm, not a hurricane, and we’ve certainly weathered worse, but we still take it seriously. With the hotel secured, we headed home to follow the same routine for our home. This being only a tropical storm, there’s no need to board up windows, but we still need to make sure there are no items out in the open that can be thrown about by the wind.

That having all been done, we now settling in to enjoy our dinner, play with our new kitten (that’s another blog entry!) and watch the Fool’s Gold DVD we rented at Blockbuster a few days ago.

Right now it’s quiet and humid with an occasional gust of wind and burst of rain. If we’re awake and the storm warrants it (and we have power, of course), we may blog later tonight about what’s happening here. Otherwise, to all our friends and family, don’t worry, we’re safe & sound. And if you’re coming to Playa soon to visit, don’t worry about that either. The storm will move quickly through, damage if any will be minimal, and Playa will be up and operating by tomorrow afternoon.

Hasta luego.

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Long After Hurricane Dean, Mahahual Continues to Suffer

Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 10, 2007

Some of the 200 despensas packed up at the Luna Blue Hotel.The little group of Playa del Carmen volunteers known as the Playa Pals for Mahahual returned to Mahahual with more supplies on Saturday, September 8. We were saddened to find that despite publicity and promises by the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations, no one other than private volunteers and the occasional government assistance truck has been to Mahahual. Three weeks after Hurricane Dean devastated this region, there are still no established relief programs in place. There is no regular supply of food, water or medical supplies. There is no organized assistance for rebuilding individual homes. In some isolated areas, there is literally no help at all.

With the help of the Dutch consol and a number of Holland ex-pats who we affectionately refer to as “the Dutch Army,” we took more than 200 despensas (packages of food containing rice, beans, cooking oil, coffee, soup, soap & tuna); about 450 mosquito nets for hammocks; boxes and boxes of mosquito repellent, sunblock and mosquito coils; lots of blankets; bags of donated clothing and new underwear for children and adults; many tarps and, as always, bags of candy for the kids.

Loading and unloading water at the Costa Maya InnWe pulled in to the parking lot of the Costa Maya Inn where Kevin Graham, local organizer of volunteers, and his group of helpers have set up headquarters. There to our joy was a large Cristal truck which Alex, one of our Dutch friends, had arranged to come from Chetumal to meet us there. They had 1200 gallon jugs of water, which they sold to us at a discount and delivered for free. Everybody pitched in unloading the truck and putting the water into the vans and pickups which were going to be distributing aid door to door throughout the area.

We were asked by Kevin to distribute our truckload of goods (food, water, clothing, mosquito repellent) in the central part of Mahahual nearest to the beach and the former tourist area. The other truck and van were directed to other outlying areas. If you’ve never been to Mahahual, it had a beautiful beach looking out on the Caribbean Sea. Lining a sand road which ran along the beachfront were small hotels, shops and palapa restaurants. It was a tiny tropical village. The second road back from the beach began houses, again mostly wooden with palapa roof. Behind them was the giant mangrove forest. Wherever the forest opened up, small Mayan style houses had been built. There is a school and a very small city hall.

A local Mahahual resident, Otto, guided us door to door. He was invaluable. He knew families that were in trouble and he knew houses that looked abandoned and destroyed but were actually home to people still living there. He also knew where to tell us to drop food and water for people who were off working but would return. Unfortunately, the population of Mahahual has dramatically shrunk since we were there last. The area experienced a forced evacuation when Hurricane Felix threatened. Although the hurricane came nowhere near Mahahual, many of the residents decided not to return. It is no small wonder given what we saw there on this day.

Little boy guarding his family's tent.  Their home is gone, and they are out looking for foodAs always, the people of Mahahual were friendly, gracious and effusive in their thanks. We asked one local resident, as we offered him food and water, if he had received any government or Red Cross help. He said that the government had been through once since the hurricane, offering despensas, but there had not been enough for everyone. He replied that a local official had been telling people that if anyone asked about the assistance, he should not say that the “gringos” brought it down.

We also saw little in the way of rebuilding of the homes that were destroyed. On our previous visits, the town had been a beehive of activity with people digging out and beginning to put up new boards, walls and roofs on their small homes. We saw none of that this time. We learned from a local newspaper article that palapa style homes could not be rebuilt or fixed up unless the owner first obtained a permit from the local government at the cost of $500 pesos. Any attempt to rebuild without a permit, according to the newspaper article, would result in a government-enforced halt on work. We personally saw more than one building with “Clausurado” signs, indicating that no permit had been obtained. It appears that larger concrete structures are exempt from this permit.

Although we observed no Red Cross or government aid offering food, water or medical assistance, we did see surveyors in several locations near the beach. We stopped and offered them water and asked who they were. They informed us that they worked for the governement and were surveying for the building of the new malecon (oceanfront walkway). It seems that a “new” Mahahual more conducive to tourists and cruise-ship daytrippers is planned. That plan seems to include an expanded and modernized beachfront. It does not seem to include the small colorful wooden Caribbean-style buildings and homes that existed before.

Sign saying 'We have received no help; we have been forgotten.'Among other changes that we learned of, Kevin informed us that the community kitchen which had been serving up to 200 people per day was closing on Sunday (yesterday). The kitchen had been one of our primary means of distributing food and water to the people of Mahahual. It had been run by Francisco, a volunteer chef who worked nonstop for the past three weeks but always seemed to have a smile. Our question of course is who will feed these people if the kitchen is closed? Another change we saw were new signs throughout Mahahual posted by the Department of Tourism proclaiming that Mahahaual would be rebuilt. And, near the beginning of town there is a large sign hung by the people of the nearby areas of Placer and Ubero which says “We have received no help; we have been forgotten.”

We have to say again that despite announcements by the International, American and Mexican Red Cross organizations that they would soon be offering aid in Mahahaul and the rest of Costa Maya, there was no sign of any organized help.

With the drop in population, the Playa Pals discussed last night focusing more on individuals rather than on large-scale relief. Claudia made a request on behalf of a 70-year-old man. He has a serious infection in his leg that needs immediate medical attention. He is afraid that if an ambulance takes him to the hospital, he’ll just be abandoned. Claudia asked if the Playa Pals could pay for an ambulance and oversee his initial medical treatment. She asked for approximately $500.00 for this, and we said yes.

In the same vein, Willem and Alex of our Dutch Army contingent came back from their distribution of goods with a sad story of a family, two adults and three children, living in one of the poorest areas of the mangroves who were desperate for assistance. The family had lost everything, and both parents were so crippled from rheumatoid arthritis they could not easily begin to recover. The guys were invited into their home and found nothing but a hammock. NOTHING. The guys suggested to the rest of our little group that we give this family special attention and provide them with some of the necessities of life even beyond a package of food or water. We all agreed that we would spend some of our money and donations buying such things as cooking pots, plastic table and chairs, specific clothing for the children, shoes (no one had shoes, and the ground and swamp water is filled with parasites), and whatever else we could think of to help them create a home again. The thought of our group is that without institutional help, we cannot possibly sustain food and water for everyone in Mahahual, but we can help some specific families. The Playa Pals for Mahahual still have some money left in the treasury and will be spending it this week on another shopping list to be provided by Kevin. We will all be heading down again next Saturday, sooner if Kevin says he needs us.

We’d like to tell one more story. As we were handing out food and water in one area, a pregnant woman with a small child accepted some of our help. A short while later she returned with a bowl which she had obviously made herself by cutting the bottom of a plastic container. The bowl was filled with water and a few cubes of ice, which she then asked us to pass around our little group, insisting that we needed it because we were working so hard. That’s when our friend and fellow volunteer Heather started crying the hardest.

By way of something positive, here is an email we received the night before last from Kevin Graham, who is coordinating the volunteer relief efforts in Mahahual. It was originally written to his fiancee, but he sent a copy to us:

To My Playa Family…

The most incredible thing happened today. Early today we had no more water to give the public commissary which is preparing 300 meals per day in centro. Then an entire water truck from Cristal arrived courtesy of our friends in Playa……I think 2500 1 Gallon Jugs and we distributed it to go out with the convoy from Playa. They brought hundreds of mosquito nets from the Dutch Consul, dozens of lonas, and enough dispensas to go around all the areas of Mahahual and Xcalak, too. It is amazing to see what Luna Blue, and the Dutch community are doing and it all appears to be seamless. It is really hard to tell who is bringing what! They work together beautifully and selflessly.

After the convoy was split up and sent their different ways with volunteers from here I was privately worried that we may not have had enough dispensas to last for a more than a few days. Just then a huge bus full (same size as an ADO) of college students from a university in Cancun arrived and asked for me. I have no idea how they ended up her but will find out. In addition, they had a moving truck full of at least 1200 dispensas. What an emotional moment. When the students asked me to tell the entire group what Costa Maya means to me I couldn’t help swallowing my words…they know what it means to now. One doctor that came with the group came up to me and thanked ME for taking care of the Mexican people. I told him that I will never come close to repaying the kindness and warmth that the Mexican people have given me. The students and volunteers from here connected instantly and worked together to deliver dispensas to the pueblo and then went with a guide to Limones, Chacchoben, and Noh Bec on the way back to Cancun. There will be enough food for another week now, too.

The town is shutting down the public commissary tomorrow, so now we are all really worried. Still no aid from anyone other than volunteers.

Lic. Kevin Graham

We’d like to end with these words:
“And if ye mingle your affairs with theirs, then they are your brothers.” — the Koran

Posted in Friends, Hurricane Dean, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »