Bashing is in Season
Cancun is the fashion in the alternative press these days. Though
springbreakers are less than two per cent of Cancun's three million
annual visitors, no report fails to call us the springbreak resort.
When it comes to what Cancun is all about, the general opinion
is that it's bad, very bad. After having lived and worked here
with my family since 1983, I disagree.
an article so twisted and inaccurate that it compares unfavorably
with Ann Coulter, The
Nation's Marc Cooper presents worst case situations as
if they were the rule, making it sound as if Cancun were a vast
slum and an environmental disaster and an example of globalization
at its worst. Actually, it might be an example of globalization
at its best -- except it's not much of an example of globalization
at all. Cancun was designed and built and mainly financed by Mexicans.
of the hotels carry names such as Omni or Hilton, but they refer
to the operating companies that provide connections into the worldwide
travel networks. Some of the newer hotels, such as the Spanish
Riu resorts, are principally owned by foreigners, but at least
70% of Cancun's hotels are Mexican-owned. Even the franchises
such as McDonald's are Mexican companies. The Cancun Domino's
Pizza is not only Mexican but locally owned. In town, Wal-Mart
is a part of the Mexican Aurrera group.
waters off Cancun are crystal clear. The lagoons suffer from some
contamination, mainly due to illegal discharges by a small minority
of hotels and restaurants, but by the standards of most American
cities, the lagoons would be considered unpolluted. There is no
visible smog here. The underground water table is beginning to
show some signs of pollution, but nothing like what's happening
to American cities. Garbage collection and disposal do need a
lot of work. The city is way behind on solving this. Unfortunately,
lower class Mexicans tend to be quite careless about garbage and
litter. It's a cultural problem that is going to require a lot
of education to correct.
overwhelming majority of Cancun residents have water, sanitation,
health care, electricity and education, and they live in houses
made of cement, not tarpaper shacks. A lot of these houses are
quite simple, but Cancun's residents are mainly home-owners rather
than renters, and they fix up and expand the basic units with
surprising speed. There are also substantial areas filled with
very comfortable houses and apartments made of cement block, not
wallboard as in Los Angeles and other American cities.
took care of
me very well."
--Paulina Hau de Puch
Hau de Puch, a housewife,
is one of thousands of Cancunenses covered by the Social
Security health service system. She broke her ankle. Her
husband is a mason. They live in a cement house and have
water and electricity and a septic tank. He earns $20
a day. This is one of three Social Security hospitals
in the Cancun area. There's also a city hospital.
care is also available at the Red Cross at modest cost.
uses "some" (usually for positive statements), and "many"
(almost always for negative statements) without any statistical
references that would enable the reader to judge their relative
significance. This is especially deceptive where he discusses
the number of people who are moving upward as a result of the
Cancun economy ("some," according to him; "most,"
according to any non-environmentalist Cancunense you talk to).
He mentions "some" low-cost public housing for workers
(which he very unfairly and viciously derides), but not the much
larger number of units being built for the middle and upper middle
classes. From what I can gather not all the neighborhoods that
he visited are slums, but typically mixed mostly low-budget housing
areas you see all over Mexico. The style of the houses reflects
traditional Mexican vernacular architecture using cement block
instead of adobe.
of Cancun's residents have come from the most desperately hopeless
poverty imaginable. Perhaps the Mexican authorities could have
done a better job in handling the massive influx of people attracted
by Cancun's success. That's easy to say after the fact. But the
absurdly unfair coverage isn't going to help correct this, because
the basic slant seems to be that any development is bad, no matter
what benefits it brings. That's just ridiculous. Mexico is getting
its population growth under control, but where is it supposed
to put all those new human beings being born? How is it supposed
to feed, house and educate them? Are they to be consigned to hopeless
lives in the Lost Cities of the Distrito Federal? Exported to
the urban and rural slums of the United States?
makes it sound as if the entry area slums are bigger than the
urbanized areas. They represent anywhere from 10% to 20% of the
city, depending upon how you define Cancun. There are a lot of
poor people here, but this is Mexico, not Monaco. Almost everyone
in Cancun came here from somewhere else. The largest group came
from the state of Yucatán (which they left not because of American
corn subsidies -- the principal crop being henequen -- but because
of intractable poverty and slave labor conditions). Most of the
rest come from the Mexico City area, seeking clean air and better
jobs. He never asks a very obvious question of any of the people
he talks with: Would they like to go back to where they came from?
Bashing is in Season
The $7.50 Ice Cream Cone
3: The Myth
of the Narco-Resort
4: An Open Letter
to The Nation's Marc Cooper