touring the bush (18) : caribbean, tropical nonplace (echeverria)

it means snake pit in maya, but lately it's more of a tropical pig-hole. cancún lingers in the minds and loins of (eternally pubescent) springbreakers-to-be across america, and haunts the (small) brains of guys and dolls who took the wild-on pledge of “what happens in cancún, stays in cancún” a little too seriously, filling them with dread, remorse or maybe just the sting of being past their prime. for some people, cancún is the anti-paradise, devoid of taste and calm. unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys flashing tits and asses, pissing in the pool, or mad-drunken-blond-mobs. in that case, you’d probably believe this was heaven on earth.

cancún might have become its own worst nightmare. until we arrive at a full-fledged 90s revival of smoked salmon entreés and techno-line-dancing, cancún will remain a place that is basically sad, proof that luxury for the masses was never a fortunate concept. for a few years it held the promise of the globalized golden resort strip, now that promise has morphed into one of amateur stripping and anonymous second-class “international” food, “fun”, and architecture.

cancún started out as a different sort of paradox. in 1971, mexico was on the quest for third-world leadership, under populist president/repressor luis echeverría álvarez. the country’s old import-substitution development scheme was pretty much eroded by then, and the short-lived oil-econmy glory days hadn’t come yet, so it was a logical steer to tourism. echeverría installed property rights and specialgrants for foreigners who prior to his term had been banned from owning land near the coast. the people’s president was keen on building a new luxury enclave in order to attract much needed foreign investment dollars to feed on for soaring public debt.

a comprehensive plan determined the former island as an ideal location and public infrastructure works were inaugurated to exploit the area’s potential, including bridges that attached cancún to the mainland, roads, utilities, etc. the infamous national tourist development fund (fonatur) was created as a means of financing the enormous projects (fonatur would fall from grace in the nineties with a disastrous program of marina developments scattered throughout mexico’s coastal regions, stained with denounciations of money-laundering and drug-cartel links). from the 70’s to the 90’s, fonatur would finance about 85% of new hotel rooms built in the country.

this was what the “institutionalized” revolution brought in terms of development. the “constructor state” (estado constructor) swayed from building social housing and services to pouring public monies in these quick-cash development schemes. The effects of these policies are now more than obvious : patches of developmental exclusion, environmental degradation, a big fake first-world feel, and good 'ol globalized tackiness galore.

next : tropical nonplace (supersudaca)

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