D I N A B E R G E R A N D A N D R E W G R A N T WO O D
I N T R O D U C T I O N TOURISM STUDIES AND THE TOURISM DILEMMA
Tourism, holiday-making and travel are more significant
social phenomena than most commentators have considered.
JOHN URRY
Wbeaches,
ith its pre-Hispanic archaeological sites, colonial architecture, pristine
and alluring cities, Mexico has long been an attractive desti-
nation for travelers and it has provided opportunities for Mexicans to cap-
italize on their nation’s natural wealth and great promise. In September
1936, those gathered at the first meeting of the Mexican National Tourism
Committee listened to opening remarks made by the freshly appointed head
of the new Department of Tourism, General José Quevedo, who spoke of
Mexico’s blessings and warned of its potential curses. The revolutionary
veteran’s comments focused on what he saw as the dilemma of tourism
development.
A fledgling industry by the early 1930s, tourism offered the possibility of
bringing about much-needed economic growth through the enhancement
of roadways, hotels, restaurants, and other related commercial activity.
Emerging routes that provided visitors access to proper ‘‘national’’ sites and
events such as regional fairs or popular festivals represented the most ideal
kind of tourist destinations. Yet at the same time, many worried that tour-
ism had the potential to corrupt Mexican identity and culture. If Mexican
hosts catered too much to visitors’ demands, tourism might turn their na-
tion into a hedonistic playground for foreigners (Quevedo used the phrase
‘‘another Cuba’’) and might lead to ‘‘the death of the nation’s soul.’’∞
Mexicans have in fact struggled to reconcile market demand with a desire
for national sovereignty since the very beginnings of modern tourism in the
early twentieth century. Countless citizens have often wondered how to
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