Just forty years ago, Cancún was a forgotten backwater on the northeastern tip of the Yucatán peninsula with less than 200 inhabitants.
Today, the mega resort alone has 200 restaurants, as well as 26,000 hotel beds, which annually attracts 2 million tourists and finally 300,000 inhabitants in “Cancún Downtown”, which are mainly dependent directly or indirectly on visitors and their purchasing power.
The development towards an artificial holiday paradise began in the 1970s at the behest of the Mexican government, but the real building boom did not begin until the mid-1980s. Today, there is hardly any undeveloped beach section on the narrow headland, which is cut off by the Nichupte lagoon from the mainland and the actual city of Cancún. The kilometer-long white sandy beach does not need to fear any competition, and the level of hotels is much higher than in other stronghold of international tourism. American-style shopping centers, restaurants and nightclubs complete the offer as well as a wide range of sports and leisure activities.
To all others Cancún is only to be recommended as a transit station, be it on the way to other beaches of the Riviera Maya or the Yucatecan hinterland. Thanks to the modern and highly frequented international airport, Cancún is also a good start or ending point for a extensive trip to Mexico.
Those who appreciate the comfort of all inclusive resorts and the convenience of international hotel chains won’t go wrong with Cancún. The obligatory detour to the world-famous Mayan Ruins of Chichén-Itzá or Tulúm in fully air-conditioned tourist buses can also be booked at any hotel reception, as well as diving courses at the spectacular coral reef or visits to the eco-parks of Xel-Ha and other privately held cenotes.
Cancun’s fabulous success as a “top destination” is not only the result of the natural beauty of its surroundings and the cultural heritage of the Maya. It is an open secret that the resort hotels and the accompanying tourist infrastructure were also a gigantic “money laundry” for the proceeds of drug trafficking. Thus, at the end of March 1999, Mario Villanueva, Governor of the State of Qintana Roo, disappeared without a trace a few weeks before the end of his term of office. The federal authorities accused him of drug trafficking, organized crime, money laundering and blackmail in more than 28 cases attributed to his close links with the Juárez drug cartel. He was supposed to have helped his representatives during his term to get 200 tons (!) of cocaine through the state and to make profits from drug trafficking in Cancún. He was actively supported by an exchange broker of the New York “Lehman Brothers”. In the following years, Villanueva was sighted in Panama, Belize and Cuba before being arrested at the end of May 2001 in Cancún.