By Maribel Correa

The language barrier faced by the English-speaking residents of Playa del Carmen tends to create a gap in local political activism and understanding. It can be a struggle to integrate into the cultural and political ambiance without a strong grasp of the political and legal terminology in any given language. In this series of interviews with some of our newly elected local government officials, we attempt to bridge that gap by detailing the positions they hold within the municipal infrastructure of Solidaridad and by putting a face on these public servants.  

Our first interview is with Luis Ernesto López, the new Director of Culture for Solidaridad

Luis Ernesto LopezWhere are you originally from, and how long have you been in Playa del Carmen?

I'm originally from Mexico City, and in February I'll have been in Playa for 14 years.

What brought you to Playa?

I had a project in Mexico City: a music group that was on the rise but fell apart due to conflict of interest from two of its members. My personal way of moving forward from an emotional setback is replacement. If something I care about ends, I look for something else to distract my mind and get to work. I came to Playa del Carmen on a friend's invitation. Even though I didn't know much about the city back then, I still decided to come on a day's notice. I arrived with my bass, an amplifier and a thousand pesos.

What do you love most about the Riviera Maya?

The quality of life is definitely what I like the most. I believe it's something that attracts everyone: the ability to commute to work in 5 minutes, to get around town by bike, the cultural diversity, etc. It's a melting pot. There are no well-defined economic or cultural classes. It's a city made by dreamers; we're people that are always looking to move forward, so we have many possibilities for growth. There are also many possibilities and opportunities to contribute because Playa is a relatively new city.

What are your favorite hobbies outside of work?

That's a tough question to answer because my hobby has become my work! Another is music and being with my family, conversation, I love communication.

I'd like to know about your professional career. What did you study and what made you choose it?

Music came to me when I was 6 years old, through my dad. My dad is one of the most passionate musicians I've met. In reality he's not in the music business; he's a physical therapist, but he has a collection of instruments that he loves. It was my dad who really gave me that love of music. From that moment I realized that I wanted to be a musician... but as we grow up there's a certain ingredient that destroys childhood and turns us into a ruined adult: that ingredient is fear. All the fears that came to me were the classic comments like "You can't make a living off of music" or "Artists starve to death", etc.

When I got out of high school I went in search of a music school, but I found out the maximum entry age was 15 years old, and I was 18. And so I was very disappointed and that's when I began to study journalism. One day, a friend invited me to a party, and on the way there I ran into a very large music school that had no age requirement, and I was accepted. That was what changed my life. I studied music, specializing in the electric bass.

What was your first job?

Working at MixUp, a music and record store.

On Explayarte:

Explayarte is my baby. It was my way of thanking this school that opened its doors to me without conditions like age. With some sacrifices but with no suffering. I'm still a part of Explayarte, but no longer in the operations area because I have a spectacular business partner who is doing excellent work. The school helped me to see the cultural needs of Playa del Carmen. This project is a great opportunity to contribute something to the city. David Sánchez is the new General Director at Explayarte. The activities I do today as the Director of Culture aren't so different from what I do at the school. The only thing that has changed is the magnitude: now I'm at a city level.

AguamalaOn Aguamala:

Aguamala was my education as a musician; it has very talented people and musical geniuses. The demands of the group are what have helped me to grow as a musician, but at both Explayarte and Aguamala I have completed my cycle in the operations area. However, they will never leave my mind or my heart.

What are the challenges you have seen in developing your career in Playa del Carmen?

I think the most difficult part of developing anything is being consistent. There are always so many stumbling blocks in the road, needs and things that can make you stray from your path. I've fallen, but that has made me value what I have and always turns me back toward the path.

What suggestions would you give to someone who wants a career like yours?

Consistency, and to not limit your goals. Considering your dream to be a given is the only way to make it a reality.

How do you go from being a musician to working for the government?

I've always been a part of the cultural scene in Playa del Carmen, but everything came together with the play Les Miserables, when the Municipal President was in the audience. The next day, he contacted me and my business partner. The first thing he asked was if the actors in the play were from Playa del Carmen. When we said yes, he was pleasantly surprised and couldn't believe there was so much talent in the city.

And that's where it all began: first with consulting, and next we presented a project for cultural development in Playa. He read it and loved it.

Luis Ernesto LopezHow has your family helped you to reach where you are today?

My family has been my foundation. Moral support is more important that anything. It's the drive that always pushes you forward. My immediate family, my parents, my siblings and my significant other. Also my son, who is 13. He has always been my motivation to set a good example.

What do you think sets you apart from other politicians?

Everyone has their own personality and goals. I don't think there's something that sets me apart from the rest.

What are your short term goals with your new position?

First I want to find out all the existing plans and try to improve them. I want to make the direction of culture a magnet for big players in Playa del Carmen's art and culture scene. Our project is called Ciudad de Artistas (City of Artists), focusing on what we can all do as artists regardless of our profession or job. We need to remind the population that it has a goal and a purpose in the evolution of society. Supporting our artists, getting their names out there and making them a source of pride for Playenses. We need to promote all of our artistic heritage to make it an outstanding example, stimulating art so that society's emotional intelligence can grow.

How will you achieve these goals?

First I need to get to know my team and explore their strengths. Listen to each of them. That's what we're here for. We're public servants. There will be an image change. We'll work on getting word out through all media so the people can see the fun and quality that's out there. Let everyone know their options and make it attractive for everybody.

How do you think these changes will affect Playa del Carmen society?

What interests me most is emotional health; that's where everything else begins. I would also like Playa del Carmen to appear on the list of the happiest cities in the world.

If you could choose again, what career path would you choose?

The same one. It's a question I've never asked myself because I love what I do.

How would you like to see Playa del Carmen in 5 years?

The Cultural Center full! More art schools. Society more involved with culture. Positive evolution in society's development at the same level as the city's commercial development. This project belongs to all of us, but there are so few of us compared to the total population. We need to spread the philosophy of emotional growth throughout the population, grow as a healthy society... we all create change. We want to be given the opportunity to approach you all and see that these changes can be made.

Maribel Correa BuyPlaya
Maribel Correa, originally from Torreón, northern Mexico, came to Playa del Carmen 6 years ago to learn more about hotel administration. She speaks 3 languages: English, French and Spanish. Maribel loves culture and art, and she's passionate about traveling and learning more about local culture. Maribel works for BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors.