What does Poverty Look Like in Playa del Carmen

When we write about communities in Playa del Carmen and other places, we obviously focus on the nicer communities that would appeal to expats. Yet, at the same time, we’ve been writing about charities recently in this blog.

You may be wondering how these two pictures fit together.

If you’ve been to Mexico, then you know that very nice communities and very poor communities exist side by side.  In some places, the poorer communities can be dangerous for those who do not belong to that social class.  This is not the case in Playa del Carmen; I have not found that the poorer communities are unsafe, even if they are not pretty.

Yet, it’s worth taking a brief look at what poverty looks like in this town.


Where do they come from?

Because of the booming tourism in Playa del Carmen, many poor farmers and village folk from throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, as well from other parts of the country – especially the states of Tabasco and Chiapas – have moved here to find work.

Many find reasonably good jobs (relative to their situation) in tourism. Many work in construction, which is a healthy industry these days.  A few never make their way very well and live in fairly harsh poverty.


What does it look like?

In almost all cases – whether they do well or not – many of the newcomers live in shacks to begin with – usually concrete block walls with fiberglass roofs, sometimes huts made out of wooden polls.

Those who do well usually begin to build up a nicer home little by little, as they have the cash to invest in materials (the work they’ll do themselves.)  The process of completing a home like this can take years upon years.

Thus, the most common sight in the poorer neighborhoods is partially built concrete homes. Some are abandoned and “regress” to the shack status.  Others are completed to be modest but comfortable and decent homes for their owners.  A few are even beautifully finished to become attractive, nicely designed homes by any standards.

Of course, there are some who, although starting out poor themselves, build substandard apartment buildings which they rent out to others for very low prices. (There are also some that are fairly decent.)


Who Needs the Help?

In all the cases mentioned above, when families first arrive to Playa, they usually have young children to think of – some of whom need to go to school.  That’s why the KKIS program Bea wrote about yesterday is so important.

There are other forms of charity to help families as they try to establish themselves, helping with items such as clothing and healthcare.  There are also programs for the homeless – often people who never manage to make things work.

There are plenty of ways to volunteer, donate and contribute; it’s always worth giving back to the community that you choose as your new home!


-by Thomas Lloyd
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