Tulum Spotlight: Los Amigos De La Esquina, a Non-Profit Organization that Created a Space for Kids where the Activities and Workshops are Focused on Art, Wellbeing, and the Environment
By: Cathy Holling | February 2021
He’s got balls. He is a creative risk taker, and he believes that you can’t win without losing.
Photos by Bernardo Flores
Mandeep Bhatia, one of the OG’s here in Tulum. He has ridden the waves of good times and bad times in this place we know as paradise. And through it all, he still stands strong. What makes Mandeep stand out amongst the other OG Tulum peeps? He’s got balls. He is a creative risk taker, and he believes that you can’t win without losing.
2002, Madeep’s first trip was to Playa del Carmen, when the beach was massive and there wasn’t a bustling ‘5th ave’, or massive condos. Back in the day, when the properties cost more in Playa del Carmen, then in Tulum. Who Knew. He took a road trip through the Riviera Maya, which brought him to Tulum. And that was it. He had Tulum fever, and like most, he fell in love with the magical paradise in an instant. He visited often, and each time he would leave to go back to the states there was a constant nagging voice: ‘why am I leaving?’. I know most can relate to this, I definitely can. But it takes a certain individual, a certain je ne sais quoi to LIVE in Tulum, have a go at it, and not get sucked into its abyss. It’s not like picking up and moving from the city to the suburbs. No. It’s like picking up and moving to Mexico. Albeit paradise, it’s still a country filled with its own legal system and ways that are reminiscent of late 19th Century when the Mafia first hit the East Coast.
It was during one of his visits to Tulum, to a friend’s wedding, that he decided to say ‘fuck it’. He was done with the Western ideal of America (and Trump wasn’t even in office then). The beaches were unspoiled, people just lived on the beach and the town was almost nonexistent. It was a place were one could just find themselves. But what does one do when they are of the creative mindset, and need to make a living in Paradise, where not much existed yet? You create your own path. And that’s exactly what Mandeep did.
His struggles were paramount and for most, they would have given up.
Mandeep’s first venture in Tulum began with a small beach bar, known as Parayiso. He told the owner if the beach bar ever came up for lease to let him know. And with great luck, that bar became available, and he put a deposit on it. When he returned Tulum shortly after, from a trip to Mexico City, the beach bar no longer existed. As luck would have it, the same owner offered him another location, a rooftop on the beach, directly in front of Gitanos. He took it. His vision was to have a studio on the beach where people could come hang out, discuss things and give Tulum a progressive voice. The vision started to take shape, with a downstairs studio, and upstairs was a small 40 person bar. Everything was going as planned, until he was screwed over by his partner.
He jumped quickly into his next venture, a found another location. This time, a restaurant called HUMO (before the current HUMO opened). Everything was set: Chef, menu, design, location, everything. His partner at the time, who was also his chef, screwed him over. As we say here in Tulum: Bienvenido a Tulum.
Still determined, Mandeep ended back at the space across from Gitano, having exhausted his savings account, he started to take out loans. The one thing he had learned from all the trials and tribulations, was to persevere if you have a vision and the balls. So he found another partner, and together, they built a magnificent space, a dream come true
Mandeep now has two locations, one in the center of town in the Pueblo, where Dhaba resides and a small hotel. The second, is across from Arca, Radio Tulum Beach, a 2-floor multi purpose space that encompases all of the art under one roof.
Two weeks prior to the opening of the space, they came. Who is ‘they’ you ask? No one really knows. But they came, and they took over 17 hotels all along the beach road, including the location he had just built. Most people who live here know this as the turning point of Tulum, and quite possibly one of the saddest moments. But true to his nature, Mandeep dusted himself off, and said to hell with it. Born like a love child from the very depths of his soul, from every emotion, out came Radio Tulum.
Tulum Eats Magazine is published 12 times a year, unless we decide to go on prolonged vacations. You can find the print magazine at select locations throughout the Riviera Maya, and in some East Coast establishments, where we will randomly place, during selective times. The website will be updated monthly, with selected materials that may or may not be the same as the print version. Look for us soon, in other states of Mexico.