The small coastal city of Tulum sits on the eastern edge of the Yucatán Peninsula in southeastern Mexico. Historically, Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayan people. At its height between 1200 and 1400, Tulum managed to survive for more than 70 years after Spanish invaders began occupying Mexico. By the end of the 1500s, though, Tulum was abandoned completely. An archaeologically rich location, Tulum’s main attractions include the Tulum’s Wall—which protected the city on the landward side from invaders—many temples, residential buildings and ruins indicating that Tulum was a thriving trade center. Additionally, in 2020, a nearby cave was explored, and a 10,000-year-old skeleton of a woman approximately 30 years old was found.
Today Tulum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region and is divided into four main areas: the pueblo, the hotel zone, the archaeological site and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an.
Pierson took this photograph on the beach in the hotel zone the day after the region reopened to tourists after the COVID-19 lockdown. “I love the way the beach and the waves look from above. They look like clouds. There’s not much surf in Tulum. The waters are very calm there normally. The textures of the water and the shadow of the palm tree make the photo special to me.”
Because of the pandemic, Pierson and his companions had the resort essentially to themselves. “Tulum was completely empty. It’s normally very touristy, but with the pandemic, it was empty. It was open, it was tropical, the weather was perfect, we’d never been there—so we had to go.”