Jungle Rails: A Historic Narrow-Gauge Railway in Quintana Roo

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Whereas much of this volume is focused on the ancient Maya, this chapter will highlight the historic chicle industry; the associated railway that traversed the northern corner of Quintana Roo, Mexico; and the recent documentation of the feature through archaeological fieldwork. We believe this to be an important slice of history in Quintana Roo because the lives of the modern Maya often lie in the shadow of their ancient ancestors. Since 1997, members of the Yalahau Regional Human Ecology Project have been studying the 40 km railway, which runs between the modern pueblos of Leona Vicario and Puerto Morelos (Mathews 1998; see fig. 7.1).

While we have been documenting the railway for several years, it has recently come under extreme threat due to major construction and development in the area. Immediate threats include the construction of a new gas line (María José Con Uribe, personal communication 2002), the widening and paving of a modern road that runs parallel to the railway (FONATUR 2002), and the development of numerous new houses along the rail line and the all-inclusive resort of El Cid in the modern town of Puerto Morelos (personal observation, 2002-2004). The imminent danger of destruction of this irreplaceable resource makes it imperative that it is documented before it is too late. Additionally, we must collect the photos and record the stories and memories of the people who were associated with the historic rail line before they are no longer around.


Justine M. Shaw & Jennifer P. Mathews


University of Arizona Press





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Quintana Roo Archaeology

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