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New Riviera Maya Resorts

The smart Mexican money is looking even farther down the coast, toward Belize, says Carlos Gosselin, another Mexican architect who worked on Cancún and years later opened an independent luxury hotel, Paraíso de la Bonita. The land he bought for that property, just outside Cancún, cost a mere $1.50 per square meter in 1974. Now it's worth 250 times that, he estimates, sounding more worried than elated.

"There's no more land in our country!" Gosselin cries. "It's going to be a big disaster."

"We'll run out of world soon," agrees Moreno, who three years ago sold 75 percent of his hotel to Orient Express in order to expand it. But he isn't giving up on the Riviera Maya, either. "I still have more land," he says, with a twinkle in his eye. "The Spanish want to buy it but we don't want to sell. We are going to keep fighting."

Flota, too, worries about the all-inclusives that have corrupted the process, ignoring the rules and getting away with eco-murder. "They own airlines, tour operators, and local transport," he tells me. One huge new hotel was recently judged in court to have been illegally overbuilt, yet it remains open, Flota adds. Still, he is philosophical—and hopeful. "All destinations experience this," he says as we wash down nouvelle Mexican cuisine with French red wine. "It's part of a cycle." He gestures toward the beach, vowing, "We will take great care to save this."

Michael Gross is a contributing editor for T+L and the author of 740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building (Broadway).

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