Selling Mexico: Race, Gender, and American Influence in Cancún, 1970-2000



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Selling Mexico highlights the importance of Cancún, Mexico’s top international tourism resort, in modern Mexican history. It promotes a deeper understanding of Mexico’s social, economic, and cultural history in the late twentieth century. In particular, this study focuses on the rise of mass middle-class tourism American tourism to Mexico between 1970 and 2000. It closely examines Cancún’s central role in buttressing Mexico to its status as a regional tourism pioneer in the latter half of the twentieth century. More broadly, it also illuminates Mexico’s leadership in tourism among countries in the Global South. First, it focuses on early tourism projects in Mexico in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It also highlights the changes in relations between Americans and Mexicans, in part as a result of the Good Neighbor Policy, during this period. The increased friendliness between Americans and Mexicans was important in Mexico’s ability to garner more tourism from the U.S. during this period. As a result, Mexico became more dependent than before on American tourism and tailored its hospitality holdings to American tourists’ market demands. This study also examines the role of ideologies in Mexico’s state-led tourism development, including Pan Americanism, internationalism and nationalism. It studies Pan Americanism and internationalism in tourism promotions abroad and at home. It also looks at the state's attempts to foster pride in national patrimony in order to promote a unified national identity and encourage more Mexican nationals to travel throughout their nation. This coincided with the government’s development of the “social tourism” sector in the 1970s. In this way, Selling Mexico expands the historical record on the state’s post-revolutionary nation-building projects and promotes a re-examination of tourism in relation to nationalism and Mexico’s cultural history in the latter half of the twentieth century. In addition, this study analyzes state-led tourism planning and its historical relationship to the development of Cancún. In that same vein, it illuminates the state’s motivations for tourism development, interpreting it as a strategy to promote economic development as well as a method to quell leftist resistance movements which were surging in the Mexican countryside during the 1960s and 1970s. It also contextualizes mass tourism during the Jet Age. In addition, Selling Mexico analyzes the intersecting relationship between capitalism, race, class, and gender in tourism. It promotes a critical analysis of these connections by examining the impact of indigenous communal ejido land expropriations, city planning, beach privatization, hiring practices, and tourism promotions on the development of Cancún. Selling Mexico interprets Cancún as a cultural borderland. It closely studies the convergence of foreign and domestic people, culture, and capital in Cancún. It looks at Cancún’s identity as a transnational “no-place,” where culture and “authenticity” take on new meanings in the age of globalization and free trade. It also interrogates the tensions between Mexican ownership and international enterprise, arguing that in the era of neoliberalism, they are often unified due to the growing presence of large and ever- expanding international partnerships and conglomerates. Finally, it examines the state’s control of its international image abroad. In an industry susceptible to perceptions of public safety, image was considered to be essential to expanding tourism. Therefore, it carefully examines how the state dealt with international reports of drug trafficking, natural disasters, violence, and kidnapping in Mexico. As an in-depth study of Cancún, Selling Mexico uses tourism to more closely examine the intersections between race, class, gender, capitalism, culture, and international relations.



Mexico, Tourism, Cancún, Pan Americanism, Americanization, Internationalism, Nationalism, Gender, Social tourism, Race, Class, Capitalism, Jet Age, State-led tourism