Pacific Dreams, Peripheral Realities: Transnational Consulting Networks and Mexican Tourism Development, 1971–85

Thursday, January 5, 2012: 4:00 PM
Wrigleyville Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Evan R. Ward, Brigham Young University
In his memoirs, former Mexican Secretary of the Treasury, Antonio Ortiz , relates a conversation between himself and then President Adolfo Lopez Mateos regarding tourism, fiscal policy and national development. While on the one hand President Adolfo Lopez wanted a sound budget, both men believed that “the development of tourism was a highly profitable activity . . . that could be financed with external resources” (<<El desarrollo estabilizador: reflexiones sobre una epoca,>>  Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 222-223. author’s translation).Thus, in the irrationally exuberant era of high oil prices, the Mexican state turned to organizations, including the World Bank, to develop new tourism sites at Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Los Cabos, and Loreto, as well as extensive hotel and airport development during the same period. This paper probes the role of transnational aid organizations (and particularly those that not only provided technical assistance, but also large scale funding for modern projects) in the development of tourism on the Mexican Pacific, and, particularly, discusses the question as to whether, the World Bank simply served as an enabler of unsustainable development by approving three projects on the Pacific Coast without any benchmark data as to their potential success, or whether the Bank provided critical analysis of the potential for long-term sustainable development in the selected locations. The conclusion of the paper considers not only the legacy of these projects as components of state-developed Mexican tourism, but also their more profound implications for Mexican diplomacy during the 1970s. Utilizing proceedings from a 1977 transnational conference on sustainable tourism development in Baja California, the paper argues that lack of public input on federal issues may have contributed to the creation on unsustainable tourism projects on the Mexican Pacific, as well as highlighted a broader pattern of limited citizen input in Mexican diplomacy throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation