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Photo: Publicdomanpictures.net
Photo: Publicdomanpictures.net

"We always end up cleaning their toilets," Mayans push back on AMLO's train through their home

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has guarded the construction of the Mayan Train, which will kill thousands of trees and displace people from their homes.

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In case the 700 km project is completed, AMLO will go down in history as the second president of Mexico, only behind Porfirio Diaz, who will have built more kilometers of railway. 

However, the questions that concern the inhabitants of the Mayan Peninsula are: Who will benefit from the “development” the president talks about and what does he mean by “progress”?

Most of the inhabitants of the region oppose the project because, among other things, the term "Maya" has been used to name a project that doesn't belong to the Mayan community. 

“They have stolen the word from us,” Manuel Puc, a rural worker who lives off the cultivation of his land told El País. “They diminish our culture and our identity by giving the name to the train.”

Other than the name, the only Mayan trait the project will have is the cheap handwork and services that inhabitants will offer to the tourists in the future. 

"In the end, we always end up cleaning their toilets," said Manuel. "Why do we always have to be the bricklayers or the waiters for the tourists? Maybe we don't want a train but good universities or an equipped hospital."

Health and education are two essential services that for decades have been decreasing in the south of the country. Presidential promises to improve them have been just that, simple promises. 

“I believe that we have the right to light, potable water, or a good school without having to accept the train,” protested Anastasio Oliveros, a beekeeper from Conhuas, a community in the Yucatán, where one of the stations is planned to be built. 

The development the president refers to indicates that people like Manuel and Anastasio have to renounce their identity to adapt to the new order proposed by the railroad project. 

As AMLO claimed in a conference in Campeche last September, before the statement went viral: “Even if it’s raining, thundering or lightning, the Mayan train is going to be built, whether they want it or not."

The inhabitants of the Mayan Peninsula refuse to accept a project that is going to generate environmental damage and will only be beneficial for a few businessmen. 

The environmental impact statement presented last month, which specifies that just with the track construction, more than 10,000 trees will be deforested, has not been enough to stop the project. 

“We gain nothing as a country by having fat jaguars and starving children; there has to be a balance,” said Rogelio Jiménez Pons in February, director of Fonatur, trying to defend the region's deforestation.

To people like Manuel and Anastacio, to accept the project is to accept the dispossession of their lands. The development proposed by the government is another way of colonization and expropriation. 

The Mayan Train is a megaproject that according to AMLO, a president who only cares about his image, is “ making history.”

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