Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gallery Storytelling - A Trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico

University of Maryland students Alex Duarte, Jillian DiNardo, Nathaniel Gallant and Josef Danczuk arrive at the Grand Mayan, Riviera Maya on March 17 for spring break. It is one of many timeshare resorts located along the stretch of highway between Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.
The students spend their days at each of the three pools located on site. Here, Alex and Jillian lounge in the resort's most secluded pool, complete with a mock beach and lake view.
"Grand" is a fitting description for the resort's largest pool, where the four students opt to spend the majority of their vacation. Here, Nathaniel is seen jumping from one side of the pool to another through large cement balls that add an artistic effect to the massive swim area.
Nathaniel and Joe practice synchronized water aerobics along with other guests. Every afternoon, local instructors visit the pool area for fitness, volleyball and dance lessons.
Every morning from 11 to noon, the four students enjoy double-sized drinks at happy hour. Bartender Manuel Rodrigo, pictured above, tells the students, "I'm happy to be living and working in this region. The tourism gives me money that I wouldn't be able to get in the rest of Mexico".
Upon leaving the resort, the students encounter desolate, impoverished land that stretches on for miles along the highway connecting Playa Del Carmen and Cancun. Flashy resort billboards tower over crumbling homes and dried up fields.
On the way to Playa Del Carmen, the students pass by several security checkpoints, where police with machine guns choose vehicles for random inspections. A taxi driver explains to the students, "The police do this for the safety of the tourists".
In the run-down outskirts of Playa Del Carmen, the students pass by a Mexican man riding his motorcycle into town. Meanwhile, Jillian points out the severe contrast between poverty in residential areas and luxury in nearby resorts.
Away from its impoverished outskirts, Playa Del Carmen's beachfront Fifth Avenue is home to hundreds of tourist shops. Jillian and Alex purchase colorful Mexican backpacks and the boys buy imported Cuban cigars.
A Playa Del Carmen waitress pours a blue tequila shot for Joe on his twentieth birthday. According to the waitress, tequila is a "necessary" part of any Mexican celebration.

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