Cancun has a Metropolitan Zone of more than 676,000 inhabitants. Its geographical coordinates are 21°09′38″N 86°50′51″W, and its altitude ranges from 1 to 8 meters above sea level, due to a slope that grows from east to west, parallel to the entire city.
Cancun is located at a distance of about 370 km from the capital of the state of Quintana Roo -Chetumal-, 70 km from Playa del Carmen; and borders to the east with the Caribbean Sea, to the north with the municipality of Isla Mujeres, to the west with the municipality of Lázaro Cárdenas, and the south with the municipality of Solidaridad.
Cancun is located northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula, and from the coast, you can see Isla Mujeres, located to the east, 7 km away in the so-called Bay of Women, an area crossed by several boats and ships that transport the inhabitants of the island to the mainland all day long. Cancun is currently divided into five main zones, perfectly identifiable for the municipal government and the Cancun society and visitors.
The first and most important is the Isla Cancun or Hotel Zone, where most of the beaches and tourist activities for which this destination is known are concentrated. Cancun Island is a tongue of land in the shape of a "7", with an extension of 23 km. The island, which houses most of the hotels and beaches, as well as residential areas such as "Isla Dorada", "Bay View Grand", "Las Olas", the Pok Ta Pok golf course, and the entrance to the exclusive area of "Puerto Cancun". The most ambitious and important residential area of the city is connected to the mainland by three bridges: the Calinda bridge at km 4, the Club Med bridge at km 20, and the Nizuc bridge at km 22. The hotel zone surrounds the Nichupté lagoon system, composed of seven bodies of water: Laguna Bojórquez, Cuenca del Norte, Cuenca Central, Cuenca Sur, Río Inglés, Del Amor, and Laguneta del Mediterráneo.
The second is the center of the city, the urban area where most of the population of Cancun lives and is divided into neighborhoods, subdivisions, superblocks or regions, regular areas perfectly delimited by paved streets and avenues, which have the basic services of electricity, potable water, telephone service, and drainage. Most of the city's political, educational, cultural, and service institutions are located here.
The third zone, formerly called Tamtamchen, has two main docks to embark and cross to Isla Mujeres, located only 7 km in front of the port, which is mostly dedicated to fishing. It has a main freezer and restaurants where you can enjoy fresh fish and seafood. Puerto Juárez is subdivided into three polygons (urban areas delimited by the municipal government): supermanzana 86, which houses the Villas Playa Blanca subdivision and reaches the ruins of El Meco, right on the border with the municipality of Isla Mujeres. In front of this demarcation is Del Niño beach, one of Cancun's 10 public beaches.
The other two polygons, superblocks 84 and 85 are home to most of the population, currently estimated at 4,500 inhabitants. They are inhabited by fishermen and some workers, most of whom live in palapas located on the side of the dirt roads. This area also reveals an infinity of commercial establishments that had their heyday until the 1980s, and that today is completely abandoned. During the eighties, the municipal government even ordered the construction of arcades on both sides of the main avenue to enhance the urban image. Its current urban and social abandonment means that both locals and visitors use this port only to travel to Isla Mujeres or eat in one of its restaurants. Ejidal strip, irregularly distributed settlements in the northern part of the city, in the municipal limits of Isla Mujeres. It is made up of irregular lands occupied by the poorest part of the population, mostly immigrants from other states of the republic.
Currently, some zones of the ejido strip are being regularized little by little with the help of the government, although due to Cancun's growth, the size of the ejido zone is increasing. The fifth zone is one of the three delegations of the municipality of Benito Juárez, the ejido Alfredo V. Bonfil, a population that was originally born of settlers from the north of the country, with the mission of contributing to the demographic increase of Quintana Roo to reach the category of a free and sovereign state in 1974. It is located 8 km from downtown Cancun, on federal highway 307 to the international airport and the Riviera Maya.
The municipality of Benito Juárez (where Cancun is located) covers an area of 1,664 km² and has 22 km of coastline. The territory of Cancun, included in the municipality of Benito Juarez is completely flat, reaching an elevation of only 10 meters above sea level, having only a gentle west-east slope towards the sea. Morphologically, the entire territory of Benito Juárez is part of physiographic Province XI, Yucatán Peninsula, and physiographic Subprovince 62, Yucatan Karst.
Land Use and Vegetation in Cancun
The growth of the city of Cancun has been involved in the following circumstances: The lack of updated planning instruments that have not allowed to properly order and development strategies that meet the needs of the population. On the other hand, existing legislation and regulations are not rigorously enforced, which increases this problem, causing the appearance of high-impact real estate developments that affect the proper functioning of the city.
Secondly, the increase in land values caused by speculation is another factor that limits development. The high value of the land has as a consequence that ejidatarios sell their land irregularly outside the areas established as reserves, generating zones without services, in very bad conditions of habitability and for being in the informality there is no future programming of incorporation to the municipal services.
Cancun has important territorial reserves with characteristics for urban use. The most important is called Pozos Norte and the Airport Polygon, which together make up almost three-quarters of the total available surface.
Despite having been mentioned within the problem to be addressed, respecting the uses and destinations of the land established in the master plan and partial urban development programs, all the works to be carried out, whether by the private sector, the social sector, or the three levels of government that make up the public sector. At present this practice persists, the most common is the change of residential use to urban corridors, with repercussions in terms of infrastructure, services, urban mobility, and lack of parking spaces.
This problem is mainly due to the possibility of land-use changes under specific conditions, which leads to an analysis of the property without considering the context and set of elements involved in the change of use and the effects on the area, in addition to this problem, the lack of high impact corridors that absorb the needs of the population in terms of equipment, commerce, and high impact services congruent with the road hierarchy should also be mentioned.
The remaining natural vegetation is according to the Vegetation and Land Use Chart, Series V of INEGI, the type of vegetation that predominates in Cancun is the Medium Subperennial Rainforest, developed in Lithosol and Luvisol soils. These are dominated by secondary arboreal vegetation, with smaller patches of shrub and herbaceous plants. The understory of this community is severely and recurrently affected by hurricanes, forest fires, and anthropogenic activities. Three tree strata can be distinguished: 4 to 12 m, 12 to 20 m, and 22 to 25 m in total height.
The mangrove zone is located near the Nichupté Lagoon; this community is predominantly shrubby and grows on flat, poorly drained soils that are rich in organic matter and susceptible to seawater intrusion. The mangrove is made up of facultative plants that have morphological and physiological adaptations that allow them to tolerate high salinity and therefore colonize land flooded with brackish water.
The characteristic species of this community are red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), white mangrove (Lagunculariaracemosa), black mangrove (Avicenniagerminans), and buttonwood mangrove (Conocarpuserectus), which show a classic mangrove zoning pattern. The basin mangrove usually develops behind the sandy bar, in soils with less nutrient input, so that in these sites is characteristic of the mangrove chaparro.
Fauna in Cancun
The fauna in the Cancun area is closely related to the extension and state of conservation of the plant communities. Considering that the destination still has contact with extensive areas of vegetation, the associated fauna is varied, it is possible to observe mammals such as the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the Temazate (Mazama Americana), or even some medium and large felines such as the Puma (Puma concolor). However, as the urban sprawl advances and the natural vegetation is replaced or fragmented, the species of higher trophic levels or those that require particular habitat conditions are displaced, favoring those of generalist or peri-domiciliary habits.
Currently, the area that, due to its size and extension, still conserves a good state of its natural populations corresponds to the wetlands associated with the Nichupté Lagoon System. This area is home to an important community of aquatic fauna, including migratory and native birds, as well as the presence of two species of crocodiles (Crocodilus acutus and C. moreletti) that have the status of Special Protection.
At the same time, in practically all of Cancun's beaches, some records oviposit the following four species of sea turtles that also have the status of "Endangered of Extinction": Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead turtle (Carettacaretta), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelysimbricata) and Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Likewise, the fauna of Quintana Roo includes animals typical of warm-humid climates and exuberant vegetation, which can also be found in Cancun. Among the most significant species are:
Mammals: Spider monkey, saraguato, puma, badger, ocelot, ocelot, margay, anteater, bat, among others.
Birds: Pelicans, herons, parakeets, pigeons, toucans, gulls, and vultures.
Reptiles: Iguanas, lizards, and vipers.
Fish: Grouper, dogfish, and sierra.
However, there are fauna species that are endangered due to irrational hunting, such as lizards, deer, manatees, and several species of turtles.