The summer vacation period in Mexico ended yesterday and today millions and millions of children returned to classes across the country. In Zihuatanejo that meant walking to school in a light drizzle for many students. It also means streets, hotels and beaches void of tourists. An unsettling occurrence for local business and lodging owners.
More and more I think it becomes apparent to lots of local businesses that opened up here in the past decade that not only is Zihuatanejo saturated with folks looking to live off tourism, but that the government’s efforts at promotion, what little they’ve done, has completely changed our tourism, especially during the summer vacation period.
It used to be that we had a decent mix of day trippers who came by bus, car and truck and more affluent tourists who occupied local luxury homes and lodgings. But between the hotels in Ixtapa changing their marketing strategy to almost exclusively all-inclusive seeking a class of tourist with less purchasing power, effectively charging rates that the predominantly non-corporate owned Zihuatanejo lodgings simply can’t compete with, and the government’s almost exclusive promotion of “social tourism” (the folks who come in tour buses for a day at most) we now find that all of us who live and have businesses here can no longer make a sustainable living from the tourists we’re getting. In spite of this new reality, FONATUR, who for years hasn’t been able to find buyers for the lands they’ve developed for sale, continues allowing megaprojects to wipe out natural areas and privatize beaches on the one hand while FIBAZI does similarly with squatters on the other, selling Zihuatanejo’s ecological zones for political expediency if not also personal profit. The squatters of course can’t find work and the megaprojects of course can’t find buyers, but with developers that isn’t the point. They build, they get paid, they move on to repeat the process. Similarly, many squatters get their stolen land and sell it for a huge profit and move on to repeat the process.
Unfortunately with the change of political fortunes underway, no one is doing anything. It’s almost like, no it’s definitely like there is NO GOVERNMENT (except of course they still want to collect taxes).
Lots of folks from other places sure want to live off the Zihuatanejo cash cow, but it seems no one wants to do the real work of getting folks to come here, no one seems to want to engage with potential tourists, to answer their questions that help them make the decision to take their vacations here. Even the airlines seem to be conspiring against us. So I plug away here and there trying to keep Zihuatanejo in people’s thoughts, answering questions and hopefully projecting the image of a place folks will want to visit for their vacation. But man, do I ever feel like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike: alone in my efforts to try to salvage Zihuatanejo’s tourism and attract newcomers with the spending power needed to help at least some of us make ends meet.
The reason capitalism is slowly but surely falling apart at the seams is because there is no incentive to be ethical or even rational in the use of resources or the distribution of profits. There is no incentive to be a good neighbor or a positive asset to a community. You don’t even have to treat your workers well. The only incentive is to make a profit at any and all cost, which often involves deception not only of folks outside the corporation but also within. So now the big capitalist countries are bailing out their BANKS and LARGE CORPORATIONS that should have failed and disappeared and been replaced by banks and corporations that implemented better business practices, according to laissez faire economics. While millions of good citizens are losing their jobs and homes. This is the consequence of years of failed economic policies such as Reagan’s “trickle down economics”. It’s also the result of glorifying greed.
Rational planning that incorporates not only rational use of resources but just as importantly good ethics and respect for communities, meaning their environment AND their people, must be the next step in economic evolution. It will obviously take a more socialistic approach to reach that step since it is plain as day that the large corporations won’t do the right thing even when on the verge of collapse and bankruptcy. We need a new economic model that takes into account the rational use of resources (including mandatory recycling instead of disposability) as well as social and environmental responsibility. No more bailouts for “burn baby burn” corporate toadies!
So under an ethically and socially responsible economic system, for example, if a store like WalMart wishes to open in a small community like Zihuatanejo where they will put dozens if not hundreds of families out of work via economic displacement in a finite market, they should have to hire and train only locals. Same with the big hotels. But this hasn’t ever been the case here, and instead of prosperity with our region’s economic growth we’ve seen more marginalization and more impoverishment as more and more outsiders suck on the teats of Zihuatanejo’s cash cow.
I don’t understand why some folks insist on viewing the related problems of growth and development from extreme and often unhelpful positions.
Am I the only one who sees clearly what Zihuatanejo could be instead of the growing problems it is becoming? Am I the only one who believes we are missing out on capitalizing on our greatest potential by not preserving what put us on the map in the first place?
I can’t help but shake my head and wonder where the idiots come from that believe we need to make Zihuatanejo like Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco or Cancún and add more artificial attractions, more condos, more megaprojects, more marinas, or whatever; raping the natural beauty and calling it progress. So let’s ruin the natural attractions we have and hope we can build new attractions to make up for the previous regular visitors we run off? Make way for the stampeding herds, right? Wrong!
Community planning is never a bad thing. Planned sustainable growth accompanied by proper development of infrastructure with an eye to improving community well-being is an admirable goal. However, we have seen nothing remotely resembling that here, either by government or private investors. Certainly some useful planning has gone into creating Ixtapa, though the purpose is becoming less clear as its natural beauty is also being wastefully and unnecessarily destroyed there, too. Nevertheless, the apparent guiding principle for years has been “every man for himself” with developers ignoring building and ecological regulations and no authority consistently enforcing them. So now the natural beauty and community charm that have always been our main attractions and that we thought would remain intact and sustain us for future generations are under serious threat from selfish and short-sighted interests seeking instant gratification.
Excuse me for thinking we could do better!
And despite all the pessimism, I still believe we can. I am encouraged by the organizing I see going on within our community among long-time mostly native locals, getting ready to work with the incoming municipal administration. I will continue to support their efforts to try to right the wrongs that have befallen our community and endeavor with them to make Zihuatanejo a better place, first for the locals and then for our visitors.
In case you haven’t noticed, that’s what this website has always been about! ;~)