The Sian Ka’an, an ecological preserve near Tulum, Mexico, is a beautiful peninsula in the Carribean Sea. The name Sian Ka’an means, “Where The Sky Is Born,” and is the first established Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. Currently, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and remains a high priority of protection for the state of Mexico.
As the third largest protected area in Mexico, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve comprises 1.3 million acres. Consisting of sea level tropical forest, mangroves, and a portion of the world’s second largest coastal barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the Reserve is home to 800 plant species and provides habitat for 350 species of birds, as well as jaguar, puma, ocelot, spider and howler monkeys, crocodiles, and many types of turtles. Additionally, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is home to 23 different archaeological sites of pre-Columbian culture.
To get here, you must have a vehicle that can handle the washboard dirt road conditions and be prepared to drive slowly. The roads are narrow and single lane, so passing must be done with caution. Along with washboard roads and other vehicles, you should also watch out for crab, crocodile and turtle crossings along with bikers and tourists taking pictures. It’s a slow drive, but the area is wild and beautiful in spite of the large amount of trash that continually washes up.
It is a beautiful area where a few locals live that manage to make a living from tourism, mostly in the hotel management business, and fishing. The people who live there, live as ecologically friendly as possible, by using wind turbines and generators for electricity, and building from the natural materials in the area.
However, the amount of trash that washes in each day is something the locals and tourists have to contend with. In front of hotels, where the beaches are groomed each day, the trash is cleaned regularly. But when you venture onto a stretch of beach where there are not any hotels, and the beaches are not groomed, the trash is abundant and heart breaking. Some of it may be from littering, but the majority of it washes in daily. There are currently not any organizations that have taken on beach clean ups in this area, so the trash accumulates quickly.
Alejandro Duran, a Mexican born, New York based artist, has managed to take the trash that washes in to the Sian Ka’an, and blend it into the beautiful landscape. In his project, Washed Up, Durán creates photo series of a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far reaching impact of our disposable culture. Washed Up speaks to the vast quantity of discarded materials in our every day lives and seeks to raise awareness to consumption and waste.
Alejandro’s exhibit inspires the use of reusable shopping bags and stainless steel water bottles in a world where waste is every where. He inspires and challenges us to make recycling and reusing a beautiful habit.