Yucatán is used as a laboratory to investigate tourists’ behavior

(Photo: La Jornada Maya)

The Yucatán is a true laboratory to investigate tourism; from the construction of Cancun, half a century ago, tourist activity became a powerful reorganizing force of a geography depredated by capitalism.

Highlighted the author Samuel Jouault in the presentation of his book El traspaís de Cancún-Riviera Maya. Places, actores y dinámicas, published by the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico and the Center for Mexican and Central American Studies (Cemca).

The virtual event -in which Ana García de Fuentes, a doctor in geography, researcher, and professor on regional development, and Humberto Thomé Ortiz, a teacher in rural development sciences and a specialist in agri-food studies, and president of the Mexican association of rural tourism- was part of the activities of the Yucatan International Reading Fair (Filey) 2022. For the author “this moment offers us the possibility of discussing alternative models of tourism development in the Yucatan peninsula, centered on the human, social and community actors.

The author focuses on the study of a region where community actors of Mayan origin play an important role in the tourism system. The Cancun-Riviera Maya backcountry is a region of the Yucatan Peninsula beyond the administrative borders. His work has four objectives: to analyze the role of local societies in tourism development, to document the touristification of daily activities and its materialization in this territory, to systematize social economy initiatives, and to reflect on the socio-territorial compositions induced by tourism activity in rural communities and the role of leaders.

The book presents tourism development in two towns: Yokdzonot and Ek Balam, both in the state of Yucatán, where some inhabitants have control of tourist activity, unlike many towns in the region whose tourist attractions have been privatized. In the words of Ana García de Fuentes, “it is a regional approach to understand the touristification process and it is focused on the members of rural societies, peasants who become tourists. She shows what lies behind the touristic coastline, what is hardly seen ”but what happens in inland communities.

The hinterland is the axis that will allow us to analyze the relationships between rural areas and internationally known destinations, with their different social and economic conceptions. The relationship between the “center”, in this case the Cancun-Riviera Maya coastal area and the transpais, the communities located in the area, is investigated. The researcher points out that the original idea that this area (rural) was going to supply agricultural products to all the tourist development never materialized, the exchange has been minimal; however, the relationship begins with “a brutal flow of low-skilled labor,” which is what builds all of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

Towards the end of the 1990s this flow is reversed, as there are tourists who leave the “center” to get to know this periphery and have other types of experiences; thus, rural tourism begins to acquire relevance and the inhabitants of these areas become aware of the attractiveness they represent, so much so that by 2016 there are already 90 companies between private, social and state-owned offering the concept of rural tourism or ecotourism.

“It is not a romantic vision, now the peasants are already tourist entrepreneurs, it is transmitting all the difficulties they have faced and continue to face in this new role of becoming tourists, problems that range from the lack of road accessibility, access to the market, of promotion, the lack of adequate training, difficulties in maintaining its infrastructure, etc.”, mentioned Ana García de Fuentes.

What happens to the milpa when the communities become touristic? The author states that there are different scenarios: one where there is total permanence of domestic spaces, lots and milper plots; in other cases the permanence is partial, the house and the lot are maintained but not the plot; There are also cases in which the milpa is abandoned in favor of the tourism project, but the domestic space is maintained. There is also the case of the continuity of the milpa but no longer by the owner, but by hiring workers, since they dedicate their time to tourism.

The Yucatan Times
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