Traveling “Black in Tulum, Mexico” for the holidays and beyond

by Donald James, For the Michigan Chronicle

There is a good chance that Tulum, Mexico, doesn’t come to mind when thinking about Mexican getaway destinations for Black American tourists. After all, for decades, Cancun, Acapulco, and Cabo San Lucas have been among the hotspots in Mexico for attracting tourists north of the border.

However, there’s a groundswell movement happening in Tulum that is attracting Black tourists in large numbers, and even Black expats are moving to the small but vibrant town located in the Quintana Roo area of Mexico, which includes Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Xel-Ha, and other cities.

The movement that has put Tulum on the map is being powered by Black in Tulum, a forward-thinking group of creative Black people providing exclusive events and experiences for Black travelers in the town of 13,000, famous for its white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, lush jungles, and electrifying and upscale entertainment and nightlife.

“Black in Tulum is the first and only community for Black and Brown travelers to come together and vibe where the jungle meets the sea,” said Nubia Younge, founder & CEO of Black in Tulum. “As a collective of creatives, we come together to provide resources, recommendations, exclusive events, and memorable experiences for melanated travelers in Tulum.”

Younge said she created Black in Tulum in July 2020 amid America’s growing political turmoil and civil unrest. Her vision was simple:  create a beautiful and peaceful space for Black people to enjoy themselves near the Caribbean Sea, the Mayan Jungle, and other mesmerizing sites in the Quintana Roo sector of Mexico.

Jesus “Scrappy” Venson, an African American from Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington D.C., caught wind of professional opportunities in the Quintana Roo area of Mexico almost three years ago through two friends. Venson abruptly quit his managerial job in the nation’s capital and moved to Playa del Carmen and, later, Tulum in March 2021. Interestingly, Venson had never been to Mexico before moving south of the border.

“In Playa Del Carmen, I met Nubia Younge, the founder & CEO of Black in Tulum,” Venson told the Michigan Chronicle. “She soon entrusted me to do social media and marketing and become Black in Tulum’s event manager, photographer, and videographer. Nubia is a mentor and  friend.”

Venson continued.

“When Black people come to Tulum, we are positioned to set up everything for them,” said Venson, who holds a business administration and marketing management degree from Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. “We do the accommodations for housing and hotels, arrange restaurant reservations, schedule private, group, and party yacht trips, and other unique tours, excursions, and entertainment events.“

 

Venson agrees.

“For Black people traveling to Tulum, it’s very safe,” Venson said. “I have been here going on three years, and I have never heard of a person of color targeted, robbed, murdered, assaulted, or anything. However, Mexico is a big country, and people must be vigilant like they would be traveling anywhere in the United States or Europe.”

“I absolutely love Tulum and the surrounding Quintana Roo area of Mexico,” Metro Detroit resident     Zavi-LaRue Mandela told the Michigan Chronicle. “There is so much to do, and it’s not expensive, and the food is incredibly good. And it’s amazing how many Black people are in Tulum at any given time interfacing peacefully with the people of Mexico. I have never felt threatened by anything or anybody while in Tulum or Playa del Carmen or traveling to and from the airport in Cancun, which is a two-hour ride.”

While Black Americans live in Tulum, Venson said nearby Playa del Carmen, a city with a population of about 400,000, is where most Black expats love to live when they move to Mexico’s Quintana Roo region.

“Playa del Carmen,” said Venson, “gives more of a city vibe with businesses, schools, and upscale stores. It’s more centered around city life and culture and It’s safe. There are some streets in Playa del Carmen where a person can walk down and see Black people in large numbers like in Chicago or Detroit.”

Tulum’s tourism is set to get a super boost when the now-under-construction Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport opens in December 2023. The new airport, only 12 miles southwest of Tulum, is being called a “game-changer” for travel to the region.

In October, Delta was the first U.S. airline to announce daily non-stop flights to the new international airport from Atlanta. Other American airlines are following suit from various U.S. cities.

“Delta is uniquely positioned to give customers convenient and direct access from the U.S. to Tulum, a premium leisure destination known for its boutique hotels, Mayan ruins, and eco-friendly spirit,” Joe Esposito, Delta’s Senior Vice President of Network Planning, said in a statement. “We know Tulum-bound customers will enjoy the elevated experience now without the two-hour drive from Cancun.”

The new international airport will be music to Younge and Venson’s ears to make Black in Tulum more accessible to Black people.

“Tulum is a beautiful place to experience, ” Venson said. “There is something here for everybody regardless of one’s age.”

“We are always planning something new and exciting,” said Younge. “We look forward to vibing with Black tourists on the white sand beaches of Tulum.”

For more information about Black in Tulum events, log on to www.blackintulum.com.

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