As we find ourselves in the hottest days of the year, Yucatán residents and visitors alike start hearing the water calling. Weekends, holidays, and pretty much any occasion is a great excuse to go to the beach, but also to the mesmerizing deep-blue waters of our magical cenotes.
At Yucatán Today we want everyone to enjoy these refreshing natural beauties; everyone, including our children, grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. That is why we spoke with Fátima Tec Pool about cenotes and their conservation. Fátima is a Yucatecan anthropologist, archaeologist, and speleologist who is passionate about the underground, its beauty, and mysteries. Not too long ago, we had the unique opportunity to visit the caves of Áaktun Kóopo’ (in the municipality of Chemax) with Fátima, and were amazed at her knowledge, enthusiasm, and patience with a couple of novice cavers.
Fátima is also a member of Grupo Ajau, an organization devoted to the research, dissemination, and conservation of underground caves, and which is proudly led by (and mostly comprises) Mexicans specialized in different areas of knowledge. For 25 years, Grupo Ajau has explored, researched, and documented the entrails of the Yucatecan soil, in order to better understand and protect them, and, above all, share their findings both with the communities that protect them and with the people in charge of guiding visitors through them.
As it happens, for many visitors (and there is no denying it, many locals too), cenotes are natural swimming pools: fun places to swim and take photos. Some fools have even proposed them as places to do motorized water sports(!). Grupo Ajau and its members see caves and cenotes with very different eyes, because they have studied the different functions they have had over thousands of years: as shelters, as sources of resources, as sacred places. They are convinced that if all visitors to the cenotes understood their value (historical, geological, environmental, and cultural, to name a few), we would all be much more aware and respectful of their fragility and care, and we would understand that they are, in truth, a living museum where you have the option to go for a swim.
This is not to discourage you from exploring and diving into the thousands of cenotes found in Yucatán, on the contrary! We want you to know, enjoy, and appreciate them as much as we do. When you plan your visit, try to think like Grupo Ajau, and ask yourself:
When it comes to infrastructure in cenotes, less is more. Some cenote operators choose to destroy their natural setting to rebuild an artificial space that only evokes nature. Don’t fall for that scam.
Am I benefiting the community where this cenote is located?
The cenotes are the natural heritage of the people who live near them; when you visit, are you sharing it with them, or are you depriving them of it?
Am I aware that I am enjoying a sacred place?
Always ask yourself if your visit is being respectful of the environment and its history. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but we encourage you to do so responsibly.
Am I contributing to the conservation of this place?
Chemicals that are used daily for us (deodorant, sunscreen, insect repellent, hair products, etc.) are very harmful to the aquifer; always rinse well before entering the water.
You’re all set! It doesn’t matter if you’re diving, swimming, floating, or just dipping your feet: dive in, cool off, and enjoy the natural treasures that are Yucatán’s cenotes.
Thanks to archaeologist Fátima Tec Pool for her invaluable contribution to the creation of this editorial.
By Alicia Navarrete
Communicologist born circumstantially in Mexico City, but who says “uay” since 1985. Life has allowed me to see the world, which in turn has allowed me to discover how much I love the place where I live.
Photography by Yucatán Today, Ralf Hollmann, and Zazil Tunich for its use in Yucatán Today.
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