Why Are There So Many Guard Towers in the Riviera Maya?

When I’m gabbing with tourists at a local beach bar or resort located in the Riviera Maya, they often ask me about the dozens of manned guard towers located sporadically along the main highway from Cancun down to Tulum.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with these towers, I took the liberty of including a couple of photos.

Some tourist speculate that they’re guarding government facilities or jails, but the truth is that in most cases, they’re only guarding undeveloped sections of land from squatters. That’s right, squatters.

Many foreigners are unaware of this, but Mexico has a huge problem with squatters, although here, they’re often referred to as invasores (invaders) and paracaidistas (parachutists).

For the purposes of this article, I’ll stick to calling them squatters.

In Mexico, it’s not uncommon to see news stories where dozens, or even hundreds of squatters take over vacant lands, buildings and residences.

In the case of open lands, the squatters often establish informal neighborhoods that may consist of hundreds of single family residences. These informal neighborhoods are scattered throughout the Riviera Maya, and unfortunately, many are plagued by high crime rates and violence.

Taken From the Headlines

Playa del Carmen – Over 50 families have taken over more than 60 acres of land and constructed structures on it. The community is called “In-House” and the true owners of the land have had difficulty regaining control of it.

In-House is one of those high crime areas that I mentioned. It is not uncommon to see it in the news as the scene of a shooting, stabbing or homicide.

Tzompantepec, Mexico – A large group of people descended on a subdivision that had been vacant for around 10 years because funding had run out on the construction project and the homes were only half finished. Over one hundred squatters descended on the community in one afternoon and took over 120 structures.

Mexico City – Mexico City is proof that this problem is not isolated to rural areas. Taking over unoccupied apartments, houses and buildings is a big money-maker for organized crime there. They will often create falsified documents to show they are the rightful owners.

Back to the Guard Towers

By this point in the article, I’m sure you can see why they erected guard towers along the coast to guard the more valuable tracks of open land. Not much more needs to be said about those structures.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Once squatters get established in a structure or on a piece of land, they are extremely difficult to evict. The legal routes can drag on for years in some cases. So, the key is to not let them get established.

This is something to keep in mind if you plan on buying a piece of land in Mexico to develop at a later time, or you have a vacation house outside of a gated community that sits vacant for much of the year.