Fonatur's good intentions are mocked in other ways, too. Frigid nortes sometimes whip up whitecaps and bend palms, and early visitors have complained of being bitten by mosquitoes and stung by high prices. Gleesen and other Fonatur aides are also embarrassed by their inability to provide housing, subsidized or otherwise, fast enough in Canc�n City. The result is exactly the sort of shantytown everybody hoped to avoid. Located on the city's outskirts, this so-called colonic evokes a frontier boomtown: rickety shacks, pungent odors and 5,000 souls huddled together with no plumbing and few electric lights, men. outnumbering women six to one.
For now, anyway, the dusty and noisy colonia is the liveliest spot in Canc�n City. On a recent Saturday night, boxing matches, a street dance and a touring burlesque show were all going on at once when it suddenly started raining. What little electricity there was promptly failed. With most events washed out, a huge crowd stood in the mud and stared in silence at the sparks flying from a damaged high wire, their broad features illuminated by the flickering light.
Fonatur officials call the colonia "transitional" and insist that it eventually will be torn down. One who foresees problems in any case is Herbert L. Hiller, former executive director of the Caribbean Travel Association and now a professor at Florida International University. "They've created a company town and they're sticking great numbers of tourists on a fortress of an island," Hiller says. "The conditions could lead to the same resentments and political tensions you find elsewhere." Hiller also sees Canc�n's superpowered venture into mass tourism as possibly ill-timed. "They're coming in with high technology and high energy consumption during an era of growing shortages. A lot of people are getting to be turned off by that sort of place."
Others seem just as sure that Canc�n is about to become the Caribbean's next In spot. A Mexican clothing manufacturer has bullishly introduced a line of guayaberra shirts under the Canc�n label, and Mexican songwriters are busy turning out the Spanish-language equivalents of Moon Over Canc�n. Since housing shortages and high prices are usually caused by heavy demand, even Canc�n's problems can be seen as symptoms of success; indeed, enough explorers are arriving that some hotels are accepting reservations only on a seven-days-minimum basis.
All this brings a gold-toothed smile to the face of Jos� Claudio Chac, one of the night students at Canc�n City's elementary school. "I come from a village near M�rida, and now I'm a carpenter working on the Maya Caribe Hotel," he said after class one evening. "When it's finished I will become a bellboy, but I hope to go into hotel administration someday. Because of Canc�n, we'll all eat better and dress better." It is worth noting that this go-getter's last name, Chac, is also the name of a Mayan god to whom the Indians of Yucat�n have remained faithful through the centuries, worshipping him simultaneously with Jesucristo. But tourists are beginning to arrive in bikinis and wraparound sunglasses, and perhaps Chac's hold will be weakened at last.
He is the god of rain.